Magic Johnson

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of April 13-19, over their 66-year history.

April 13, 1949

George Mikan led the Lakers to their first-ever NBA Championship, as they defeated the Syracuse Nationals in six games to claim the title.

April 14, 1962

Elgin Baylor set an NBA Finals record with 61 points when the Lakers defeated the Celtics 126-121 in Game 5 at the Boston Garden. Baylor recorded 11 straight 30-point plus scoring performances for Los Angeles in the playoffs, setting an NBA record. Despite Baylor’s heroic efforts, the Lakers eventually fell to the Celtics in seven games.

Bob Flora/Bettmann/CORBIS

Bob Flora/Bettmann/CORBIS

April 14, 1976

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won his fourth NBA MVP award following a season in which he averaged 27.7 points per game. Abdul-Jabbar led the NBA in rebounds per game with 16.9 and blocks per game with 4.1. He finished his illustrious NBA career with six total MVP awards, which is the most by any player in NBA history.

April 14, 2004

Kobe Bryant hit a 3-pointer buzzer-beater in double overtime to give the Lakers a 105-104 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on the final day of the regular season. More importantly, the win clinched the Pacific Division title for the Lakers, and gave them the second seed in the Western Conference in the playoffs. Bryant, who finished with 37 points and eight rebounds, also hit a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime.

April 15, 1991

Magic Johnson became the NBA’s all-time assists leader after dishing out 19 assists in a 112-106 Lakers’ win over the Dallas Mavericks at the Great Western Forum. He surpassed Oscar Robertson with 9,898 assists to claim the top spot. Johnson finished his career with 10,141 assists, which currently ranks fifth on the NBA all-time list.

April 17, 1966

Jerry West led the Lakers to a 133-129 come-from-behind victory against the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the 1966 NBA Finals. West scored 41 points, as Los Angeles erased a 34-20 deficit at the end of the first quarter, which is the largest first quarter deficit ever overcome in the NBA Finals. The Celtics eventually won the series in seven games.

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of March 23-29, over their 66-year history.

March 23, 1999

Dick Enroth, the original radio voice of the Minneapolis Lakers, died from cancer at the age of 80. Enroth was the Lakers’ radio play-by-play voice from 1947-1959, during which the team won four NBA championships. He was known as the “fastest-talking sportscaster in the Twin Cities” during his tenure with the Lakers.

March 24, 1970

Jerry West won the NBA scoring title after leading the Lakers with 2,309 points in 74 regular season games. This was the first and only time in West’s illustrious career that he won the scoring title. West averaged 31.2 points per game during the 1969-70 season.

March 26, 1972

The Lakers ended the 1971-72 regular season with the best record in NBA history after defeating Seattle 124-98. Los Angeles finished with a 69-13 record and a .841 winning percentage. Their record would hold as the best in NBA history until the 1995-96 season, when the Chicago Bulls finished the regular season with a 72-10 record and a .878 winning percentage.

Getty Images

Getty Images

March 27, 1994

Magic Johnson made his head coaching debut with the Lakers when they defeated Milwaukee 110-101 at The Forum. Los Angeles went 5-11 during Johnson’s 16 games as head coach.

March 28, 1973

Wilt Chamberlain finished his career with a then-NBA record of 1,045 consecutive games without disqualification. Chamberlain did not foul out of any games over the course of his 14 NBA seasons. His consecutive games without disqualification streak ended when Moses Malone broke the record with 1,212 straight games without fouling out.

March 28, 1982

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in his 1,000th regular season game, when the Lakers beat the Kings 109-96 in Kansas City. Abdul-Jabbar became just the 15th player in NBA history at the time to do so.

March 29, 1952

George Mikan set a then-NBA playoff record for points when he scored 47 against the Rochester Royals in Game One of the Western Division Finals. Despite Mikan’s efforts, the Lakers lost the game 88-78.

March 29, 1962

Elgin Baylor and Jerry West became the first set of NBA teammates to each score 40 or more points in a playoff game. Baylor scored 45 and West contributed 41, but the Lakers lost a heartbreaker to Detroit in the Western Division Finals, 118-117.

Although it was reported earlier by NBATV’s Greg Anthony that Phil Jackson is joining the New York Knicks, the deal with the Knicks is apparently not done yet.

In the meantime, according to USA TODAY Sports, some powerful members of the Lakers‘ family have been working to sway Jackson back to Los Angeles:

Although a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that Jackson has an agreement in principle to become the Knicks’ team president, some of the most powerful men in Laker Land spent much of Wednesday attempting to pull off the seemingly-impossible: come hell or high water, as Lakers star Kobe Bryant likes to say, they want Jackson back. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal is not yet done.

Earlier Wednesday, Kobe Bryant shared his admiration for his old coach.

“Well, I mean you know how I feel about Phil,” Bryant said. “I have so much admiration for him and respect, and have a great relationship with him, so personally it would be hard for me to understand that [losing out on Jackson's services] happening twice. It would be tough. I don’t really get it.”

Magic Johnson also did his part Wednesday in showing his respect for the eleven-time champion coach.

Stay tuned to LakerNation.com for the latest on what has now become an ongoing ‘saga’ in Phil Jackson returning to the NBA.

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of March 2-8, over their 66-year history.

March 2, 2008

The Lakers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 108-104 in overtime at the STAPLES Center. Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 52 points to lead the way, including 22 in the fourth quarter and eight in overtime. This game marked the 22nd time in Bryant’s illustrious career that he hit the 50-point plateau. Pau Gasol added 17 points and 14 rebounds for Los Angeles in the win. With his 52 points, Bryant moved past Walt Bellamy into 25th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

March 3, 2004

Kobe Bryant hit a jump shot over Yao Ming with 32 seconds left in regulation to give the Lakers a one-point lead en route to an eventual 96-93 victory over the Houston Rockets. The Rockets later intentionally fouled Derek Fisher, who then hit two free throws to seal the win. Bryant, who finished with 18 points, led the way for the Lakers as they rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Bryant also added 13 assists for Los Angeles, which were two short of his career high. Houston’s Yao Ming finished with 33 points for the tough-luck losers.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

March 6, 2000

On his 28th birthday, Shaquille O’Neal scored an NBA season-high and career-high 61 points and collected 23 rebounds, as the Lakers defeated the Clippers 123-103. Shaq shot 68.6% from the field to lift the Lakers to their 16th consecutive victory. O’Neal’s previous career-high came in 1994, when he scored 53 points for the Orlando Magic against Milwaukee.

March 7, 1996

Magic Johnson dished out seven assists in a 102-89 victory over the Kings in Sacramento to become just the second NBA player in history to tally 10,000 career assists. Johnson finished his career with 10,141 assists, and currently sits in 5th place on the NBA’s all-time assists list. He holds the NBA record for most assists per game with 11.2.

Every few weeks, our staff writers chime in on the trending topics, rumors and storylines surrounding the Lakers. In this post-All-Star Break edition of State of the Nation, they answer five questions that will ultimately decide the fate of the Lakers.

Will the Lakers be active at the trade deadline?

Johnny Navarrette // @JohnnyNav: It is hard to see the Lakers not being active this deadline. With the Lakers fighting for lottery positioning at this point, they have some goals financially they need to accomplish like getting under the tax threshold. I think the most realistic trade options are Pau Gasol, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, and Chris Kaman.

Photo Credit | Tony Gutierrez AP

Image: Tony Gutierrez | AP

Oren Levy // @LakersOren: They should be active at the deadline. The Lakers’ season is effectively over, and the Lakers have some parts that could be valuable to contenders. Ideally, the Lakers should accomplish two things before the deadline: Get below the luxury tax, and acquire future assets. If they can get below the tax line (to avoid repeater tax in future years), and turn Gasol/Kaman/Hill/Blake/Whoever into a 1st round pick and a couple of 2nd rounders, they’ve improved their position.

Jory Dreher // @Jay_Laker: With the impending tax bill looming for a team that’s not going to make the playoffs, they almost have to deal for cap relief purposes. The Lakers have held discussions with the Brooklyn Nets in regards to a possible Jordan Hill deal, and we still hear the chatter about Pau to Phoenix–so I would be surprised if they stand pat.

Ash Kargaran // @aakargaran: Yes. The Lakers will be trying to find a trade partner for Pau Gasol. At this point, the Lakers may even take less value for Gasol just so they can guarantee he doesn’t walk away for nothing, a la Dwight Howard last year.

Kanta Ito // @Kanta_B_Ito: They have to be, but in order to build for the future. Players like Kaman, Hill, and Blake might get involved in minor deals in order for the Lakers to get under the luxury tax this season. However, reports of Pau Gasol getting shopped around creates a possibility that a blockbuster deal could occur before the trade deadline.

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia: The Lakers will be active at the trade deadline I believe, however it won’t necessarily be a big move like many may think.  Could be a series of small moves to help the team get under the luxury tax threshold or help the business side of the team.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0: Yes, whether it will be Pau or some small pieces, a change is definitely coming.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII: No I do not believe they will be. With all of the rumors surrounding the team I think they will keep what they have currently and finish out the season as best they can.

Next Question: How will the Lakers fare over the final 29 games?

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of February 16-22, over their 66-year history.

February 16, 1972

Wilt Chamberlain scored his 30,000th point in a 110-109 loss to the Phoenix Suns. He became the first NBA player in history to reach this plateau. Chamberlain finished his playing career in 1973 as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 31,419 points. Chamberlain has since been passed on the all-time scoring list and currently sits in fifth place.

February 16, 1992

Magic Johnson’s number 32 was retired during the halftime ceremony of a Lakers-Celtics game at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles. Johnson joined Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in Lakers’ history at the time to have their jerseys retired. Johnson and the other greats have since been joined by James Worthy, Gail Goodrich, Jamaal Wilkes, and Shaquille O’Neal.

Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Robert Laberge/Getty Images

February 17, 2004

Kobe Bryant scored a tie-breaking layup with 31.8 seconds left in regulation to lift the Lakers over the Portland Trailblazers 89-86 in Los Angeles. Bryant finished with a game-high 31 points, including his team’s last five. He also added eight rebounds and 10 assists, just falling short of a triple-double. Shaquille O’Neal added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers in the win.

February 22, 2002

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning jump shot over George Lynch, as the Lakers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 96-94 in North Carolina. Bryant finished the game with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Shaquille O’Neal led Los Angeles with 31 points.

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of February 9-15, over their 66-year history.

February 9, 1992

Magic Johnson was honored for the second time in his illustrious career as the MVP of the NBA All-Star Game, as he dropped a game-high 25 points and dished out nine assists to lead the West to a 153-113 victory over the Eastern Conference squad. This game was Johnson’s first time back on the hardwood since announcing his retirement from the NBA on November 7, 1991.

February 10, 2002

Kobe Bryant was named the MVP of the 52nd NBA All-Star Game after scoring 31 points in 30 minutes of action for the Western Conference team, as they defeated the East 135-120 in Philadelphia. This game marked the first of four times that Bryant would win the All-Star Game MVP award in his career.

Andy Hayt/ NBAE/ Getty Images

Andy Hayt / NBAE / Getty Images

February 13, 2000

Shaquille O’Neal shared the All-Star Game MVP honors with Tim Duncan after scoring 22 points in 25 minutes, as the West held off the East 137-126 at The Arena in Oakland. The powerful Western Conference starting frontcourt, including O’Neal, Duncan, and Kevin Garnett, tallied 70 total points and grabbed 33 rebounds collectively.

February 13, 2001

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning layup with 4.8 seconds left in overtime, and then hit a free throw to complete the three-point play after getting fouled on the shot, to lift the Lakers over the Nets 113-110 in New Jersey. Bryant’s game-winner overshadowed Stephon Marbury’s game-high 50 points for the Nets. Bryant finished the game with a team-high 38 points, while Shaquille O’Neal contributed 32 for the Lakers.

February 14, 1986

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the NBA’s all-time leader for total minutes played in a career, as he surpassed Elvin Hayes’ previous record of 50,000 minutes in a 141-117 win over Atlanta. Abdul-Jabbar finished his career with 57,446 total minutes played, which still holds as the NBA record.

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of February 2-8, over their 66-year history.

February 2, 2002

Phil Jackson became just the 13th coach in NBA history to notch 700 career wins in a 100-85 Lakers’ victory over Memphis. In his 12th season as a head coach, Jackson improved his record to 700-246. Jackson retired from coaching in 2011 with a record of 1155-485 and a winning percentage of .704, which is currently the highest winning percentage of any coach in NBA history.

February 2, 1996

The Lakers and Bulls set a then-record for the highest-rated NBA game ever on cable television, when Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson faced off on the hardwood for the first time since the 1991 NBA Finals. Jordan notched 17 points for Chicago, while Johnson scored 15 points off the bench for Los Angeles, in a 99-84 Bulls’ win in Los Angeles. The game, which aired on TNT, was viewed by 4.75 million homes and earned a 7.1 rating and 13.1 share. This record lasted for just three months before it was broken during a playoff game between the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic.

Bernstein/Getty Images

Bernstein/Getty Images

February 2, 2009

Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 61 points in a 126-117 victory over the Knicks in New York. Bryant went 19 for 31 from the field and 20 for 20 from the free throw line. He broke Michael Jordan’s opponent record at the Garden of 55 points, as well as Bernard King’s overall record of 60 for most ever points scored at the Mecca. Carmelo Anthony broke Bryant’s Garden record when he scored 62 points against the Bobcats just last month.

February 4, 1987

The Lakers held the reeling Sacramento Kings to just four points in the first quarter, marking the fewest points scored in the first quarter of an NBA game since the establishment of the shot clock in 1954. In a balanced effort, Los Angeles went on to rout Sacramento 128-92, as seven Lakers scored in double figures.

February 7, 2001

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning 15-foot jump shot over Shawn Marion with 2.7 seconds left in regulation to lift the Lakers over the Phoenix Suns 85-83 at STAPLES Center. With 23 points in the second half, Bryant scored a game-high 32 points, while collecting eight rebounds and notching nine assists in the final game before the All-Star break.

Since Mike D’Antoni joined the Lakers last season, legend Magic Johnson has made his feelings known regarding the head coach, while blasting the front office and Jim Buss every chance he gets.

It was no different recently as Johnson went on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Jay Leno and ripped the Lakers coach.  Here is one of the most telling quotes of the interview:

“We’re the Lakers, we got to have a championship coach,” Johnson said.  ”We made a critical mistake in not bringing Phil Jackson back.”

The video is below:

Do you agree with Johnson’s criticism of D’Antoni? Sound off Nation!

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of January 26-February 1, over their 66-year history.

January 29, 1980

Norm Nixon set a then-NBA record for most minutes played in a single game with 64, when the Lakers fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers 154-153 in quadruple overtime. Nixon’s record was tied in 1987 by Sleepy Floyd of the Golden State Warriors, and later broken by Dale Ellis of the Seattle SuperSonics in 1989, when he played for 69 minutes in a five-overtime game against Milwaukee.

January 30, 1996

Magic Johnson shocked the NBA with his return to the league after having been retired from playing basketball since he announced that he had contracted HIV in 1992. In his first game back on the floor with the Lakers, Johnson scored 19 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out 10 assists to help the Lakers defeat the Golden State Warriors 128-118 at the Great Western Forum. At 36 years old, Johnson played the final 32 games of the 1995-96 season, while averaging 14 points, seven rebounds, and six assists during that stretch. Johnson was an assistant coach with the Lakers in 1994 before returning to the hardwood. He retired from playing for good in 1996.

Dick Raphael /NBAE/Getty Images

Dick Raphael /NBAE/Getty Images

January 31, 2010

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning shot over Ray Allen with 7.3 seconds left in regulation to lift the Lakers over the Boston Celtics 90-89 at the TD Garden. This victory marked Los Angeles’ fourth consecutive win, and third straight against Boston. Despite trailing by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, the Lakers rallied behind Bryant and their big men down low, outscoring Boston 18-0 on points in the paint in the fourth quarter. Bryant finished the game with 19 points, while Andrew Bynum also dropped 19 points and collected 11 rebounds. Pau Gasol added 11 points and 11 rebounds. With his 19 points, Kobe Bryant moved within 28 points of Jerry West’s all-time Lakers’ record of 25,192, for most points scored in franchise history.

Magic Johnson might have sold his share of the Lakers franchise a little over three years ago, but he still likes to share his opinion when it comes to his old team.

According to Mike James of the LA Times, during a meeting with Dodgers officials and media members, Johnson gave his two cents:

“This is what happens when you make the wrong decisions, two coaching wrong decisions, giving Steve Nash that deal, it’s backfired,”

“The biggest problem they’re going to have right now…you’ve got to get a guy like Jerry West to be the face of the team…you’ve got to have someone helping Jim. He’s got to quit trying to prove a point to everybody that he can do it on his own, get his ego out of it, and just say, ‘Let me get someone beside me to help achieve the goals I want.’ Dr. Buss was smart, he said, ‘I’m going to get the best dude, Jerry West, and he helped me achieve my goals. Then I went and got the best coach [Phil Jackson].’ He wanted to work with the best.”

Jerry West is currently a consultant for the Golden State Warriors, but Lakers fans may be asking themselves, ‘what about Jim’s General Manager, Mitch Kupchak?’

“Mitch is great,” Johnson said, “but he doesn’t have the power…you need to get someone like Jerry to be the face, so agents are comfortable, players are comfortable, knowing the Lakers are going for a championship…look what Pat Riley did in Miami…if Pat Riley’s not there, you don’t get LeBron to buy in.”

Johnson also lamented the idea that free agents haven’t been pining to come to the Lakers like they used to.

“Everybody’s telling me free agents don’t want to sign [with the Lakers]…they’re looking at the Lakers now as a team that’s dysfunctional; who’s their leader, who’s the guy?”

Johnson brings up a very good point. The Lakers used to bring in talent easily because they had the resources to attract the star power. What Magic fails to realize is that there is a new CBA in place and things just aren’t the same as they used to be. Especially not for the Purple and Gold.

Johnson also seems to be back tracking from his thoughts of Jim Buss after the Lakers landed Nash and Dwight Howard last summer.

“I love it. Jim, you look like your father; I’m proud of you. He’s definitely the guy now to win the NBA executive-of-the-year award.”

Flip. Flop.

Getty Images

Getty Images

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of December 15-21, over their 66-year history.

December 16, 2009

Kobe Bryant lifted the Lakers in overtime with a buzzer-beating jump-shot over Charlie Bell to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 107-106 in Milwaukee. Bryant led the Lakers with 39 points in 50 minutes of action, while Pau Gasol had a monster game with 26 points and 22 rebounds.

December 19, 2003

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning, buzzer-beater at the end of regulation, when the Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets by a score of 101-99 at the Staples Center. Bryant’s fade-away over Jon Barry counted for two of his 13 points on the day. Shaquille O’Neal led Los Angeles with 26 points in the win.

90041663SD023_LOS_ANGELES_L

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

December 20, 2001

Lakers’ play-by-play announcer Chick Hearn missed his first broadcast in 36 years and 3,338 games, when the Lakers took on the Houston Rockets in Texas. At this time, Hearn was recovering from cardiac bypass surgery, but returned to the booth later in the 2001-02 season. Hearn’s last broadcast occurred during Game 4 of the 2002 NBA Finals, when the Lakers beat the New Jersey Nets to win their third straight NBA Championship. Hearn is known for coining popular basketball phrases such as “slam dunk,” “air ball,” and “no harm, no foul.”

December 21, 1980

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored a season-high 42 points to surpass 25,000 career points, in a 135-102 Lakers victory over the San Antonio Spurs. On this date, Abdul-Jabbar became just the fifth player in NBA history to reach the 25,000-point milestone.

December 21, 1985

The Lakers won their NBA-best 24th game of the season, raising their record to 24-3, when they defeated the Washington Bullets 96-84. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the scoring attack with 29 points, while Magic Johnson followed suit with 15 points and 13 rebounds. The Lakers finished the 1985-86 regular season with 62 wins, making it one of 11 seasons in team history with 60 or more victories.

Jesse Buss

By Alex Lambeth, with contributions from Jory Dreher

Jesse Buss

Photo: Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images

Jesse Buss, Lakers’ Scouting Coordinator and L.A. D-Fenders’ Director of Scouting, joined LakerNation.com for an exclusive interview this past week.

Buss, the youngest descendant of the late, great Dr. Jerry Buss, is a vital member of the Lakers’ scouting staff. He joined us to describe his role for the Lakers, detail the intricate scouting process he oversees, speak on his father’s legacy, as well as a plethora of other topics.

Take a listen above, as Buss joined our inaugural Laker Nation Podcast, or read below to learn more about the youngest Buss sibling, and his close relationship with his father:

Alex Lambeth: What exactly is your role with the Lakers?

Jesse Buss: My job as the Director of Scouting basically consists of scheduling our scouting staff to see college games for the upcoming season, helping organize meetings with all of our scouts, and scouting prospects on a regular basis. I’m in constant contact with our staff. We’re constantly bouncing ideas off of each other of what players we need to spend most of our time focusing on, important events we need to attend, and just talking about what we’ve seen throughout the entire scouting year. I share an office in El Segundo with Ryan West, and him and I talk almost everyday—about everything that goes into scouting. Basically the day after the draft and during the off-season it’s more about preparation for the upcoming season and the following draft.

AL: How does scouting for the D-Fenders differ from the Lakers?

Buss: It differs in the fact that in the NBA draft, you know the players that you’re scouting on a year-to-year basis are going to be in the draft eventually—whether it’s in the same year that you scout them or in the future. For the NBDL players that are drafted, they come from leagues all around the world. They could have been in the NBA at some point and played overseas for a couple years, then want to get back into the NBA system and on the radar. They could be rookies from college who didn’t get drafted into the NBA, or they could be veterans of the developmental league. The draft pool consists of players that the league signs to a contract and then they participate in the draft, if another D-League team does not already hold their rights.

AL: What specifically do you look for in prospects?

Buss: There are a number of factors that I use when evaluating prospects. I think it’s important to not focus too much on one thing specifically, but to focus more so on the overall picture. There are obvious things on the court that involve physical gifts and talent levels, but there are also off the court characteristics that we look at. We have staff rank each player individually that will make the most positive impact on our franchise.

AL: The Lakers as an organization seems to always carry a “win now” mentality, does that put additional pressure on your staff to find guys who can fit in quickly?

Buss: I would say it’s the same pressure when we’re suggesting drafting any player for the Lakers. It’s important to have a player who can come in and make a difference right away, but I would say the factor we really look at is who we believe is going to be the best player for the Lakers overall. The goal I personally have in my mind is that I want us to draft a player who will contribute to the Lakers winning for the longevity of his career.

AL: Give us your thoughts on rookie forward Ryan Kelly out of Duke University.

Buss: He’s a fundamental player with a good amount of skill and a high basketball IQ. I believe he fits well with this system that we have, because he can add another dimension to our team. We don’t have a guy like him right now. There aren’t many guys with his size, he’s a legit 6’11”, that have the ability to shoot the ball from the range that he does. He’s a hard worker and has a good character, and I’m excited to watch him play.

AL: What kind of impact do you think rookie Elias Harris will have with the Lakers this season?

Buss: He brings certain things like his energy, toughness and athleticism that we can definitely use. It’s important to have guys who will work hard day in and day out, and always bring a level of competitiveness to raise the levels of others. It’s important to get younger players on the roster that our staff can continue to develop and eventually make an impact on the court.

Jory Dreher: What was it like growing up in a “basketball family”? Especially when your father, the late, great Dr. Jerry Buss, was one of the most iconic sports owners in history?

Buss: It definitely added to all of our competitive natures. As a family, we love to win and we’re very dedicated in doing so. My dad was able to instill that in all of us at a young age. For me personally, it was great to be able to share a deep passion amongst loved ones and often find common ground through it.

JD: If you could sum up the ‘Buss legacy’ in one sentence, how would you describe it?

Buss: That’s tough. I would say he was very successful in whatever he put his hands on, but the most important thing is that he had a strong presence and it proved to be the right way to run the franchise.

JD: Out of the sixteen championships that the Lakers have won, do any of them stand out to you personally? Do you have a favorite?

Buss: I remember five of them, which were the first three with Kobe and Shaq and then our most recent two in 2009 and 2010. I’d probably say the 2000 championship, because the first one you get to experience is always the sweetest, and that was really the first one for me. I was born late ’87 so the last one we won before that I wouldn’t remember. But yeah, that was definitely the most memorable one for me.

JD: How sweet was it to finally get past Boston in the 2010 Finals?

Buss: The last time we beat Boston I wasn’t even alive yet, but I do know how much it meant to my dad. He said on many occasions that he hated Boston—there’s nothing better than beating Boston when we were able to. After the ’08 Finals, it was especially sweet to beat them in 2010 and do it on our home floor. That was a wonderful experience.

JD: How do you expect Dr. Buss’s legacy to live on?

Buss: He’ll always be known as a person who cared deeply about the Lakers and the fans, even if he didn’t personally know all of them. He did everything he could to constantly bring a winner to Los Angeles and helped build the NBA to where it is today. He was a mentor and an inspiration to many people, including myself. He was very well known for his generosity. He was just a really cool guy and I couldn’t have asked for a better father.

JD: What is the biggest lesson about the business that you’ve learned from your father?

Buss: To always have the right people around you and let them do their jobs.

JD: I know that your father was your best friend, could you just speak on the bond that you two shared?

Buss: He was just somebody I could talk to about pretty much anything. He just understood all aspects of life—whether it was talking about a movie we had just seen, the latest hip-hop song that came out, basketball, or anything personal. He just really knew how to relate to anyone he talked to. He let me grow and develop as a person without trying to force me to do something. He was the type of person that would help you with something if you needed it and asked for it, but would prefer to let you figure it out yourself. Personally, I believe that was very empowering for me as an individual. I can’t thank him enough for everything that he has done for me. It is definitely a huge void in my life not having him here; I really miss talking to him.

JD: I recall a past interview that you had given to Lakers’ beat reporter Mike Trudell, in which you said your brother, Jim Buss, took you under his wing. What are some of the things that you picked up from him?

Buss: The first couple of scouting trips I did years ago were with him. He kind of just showed me the ropes in the sense of what the job entails. I would probably say the most important impact that he’s had on me is just the trust he’s put in me, and also at the same time just telling me to trust and believe in myself, as well.

AL: How often do you collaborate with your brother and General Manager Mitch Kupchak?

Buss: We often talk about everything that’s going on with anything that’s basketball related: anything that’s current, any game we saw, what’s going on with our team. But mainly we collaborate with college scouting and anything involved with that. I like to think that I’m constantly an information source for anything that’s going on scouting-wise for them. During the entire draft process, which is basically the whole year once the college season starts and even a little bit before that with the tournament, camps, and workouts, we collaborate almost everyday in preparation for the draft.

AL: Is that probably the most grueling part of the season for you, right up until the draft?

Buss: I would say probably during the last month, because you have all the information that you need. You’ve seen all the players you need to see and now it’s just about putting that to use. We watch a ton of tape, especially the last month when we’re all rooted and we’re able to be in the office everyday, as opposed to having to be on the road constantly. So, we’re really able to grind out everything that we need to. It’s more excitement than I would say grueling. We all love to do it and we all work very well together and we have a blast when we’re doing it.

AL: You started out as an assistant to Glenn Carraro, may you elaborate on the transitional period from then to now?

Buss: I started working as a basketball operations assistant under Glenn about eight years ago. I would do different things like statistical projects, filing scouting reports, organizing tape for our staff to watch, amongst other things. During that time I was scouting local college games for the first couple of years. Probably three or four years after that process, I started traveling around a lot more often and going to different places around the country and watching more college games. That essentially became the priority of my job. I did that for a couple of years and then I became more involved with the managerial type role in the scouting department.

AL: What is the most challenging part about scouting?

Buss: Well, in terms of scouting prospects there are certain factors that go beyond what a player can bring a team that you can’t really predict: injuries, misfortunes, etc. In terms of the actual job, the travel is difficult at times, but I enjoy it. I would say I’m probably out of town close to 100 days out of the year; I probably take 60 or so flights a year. So the travel can wear on you physically.

JD: With scouting being a year-round job, how many Lakers games are you able to catch per year?

Buss: I watch every Laker game one way or another, whether it’s live or recorded on TV, computer, cell phone, or when I’m actually in the stands. I would say I’m physically there for about half of the regular season games, whether we’re at home or on the road. I’m not present for as many home games because I’m constantly on the road. But at times I can catch the team when they’re playing in the city close to where I’m scouting.

JD: With all the traveling, what do you think is the most exciting part of your job?

Buss: I would say the most exciting part is being able to watch hundreds of new prospects every year. It’s definitely fun to watch players when they’re younger to see their progression and development throughout the years.

AL: Do you have any good scouting stories you can share with us?

Buss: Throughout the years I’ve had the pleasure to attend many exciting basketball games. I think the most interesting experience I’ve had is seeing two games in two different states in one day, and then the next day we’re in a different state seeing a different game. So all that type of travel and how it’s very condensed is interesting and at times, you’re driving through three states in two days.

AL: How about your favorite venue to watch college games?

Buss: I do have a couple. If I had to narrow it down to one actually, I really enjoy going to San Diego State and watching games there. Over the last couple years where they’ve been nationally ranked and they’ve had a couple kids come out there, the crowds have been very energetic and it’s just a great atmosphere. I definitely enjoy watching games there. Besides that, I’ve been to Kansas and that’s always electric. North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville, those are all really great schools to watch a game, and Michigan as well. Those are probably my top schools where I like to watch a game.

AL: Finally, your top Lakers players of all-time, in no particular order?

Buss: Well at my office I’m just looking outside and I see all the retired jerseys, so of course I have to mention quite a few of them. In no particular order though, I would say Kobe Bryant, Magic [Johnson], Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, and Kareem Abdul-Jabar.

Continuing on Pau Gasol:

Buss: It was during a very crucial time when he came to our team and he proved to be the missing piece. He contributed to two more titles for us. He’s been a great Laker.

AL: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Mr. Buss. It was an honor and we really enjoyed it. We hope you did too!

Buss: Yes I did, my pleasure. Thank you very much.

There you have it Laker Nation! Our exclusive interview with Jesse Buss, Lakers’ Scouting Coordinator and L.A. D-Fenders’ Director of Scouting. We hope to catch up with him again later in the year.

PhotoCredit: HarryHow/GettyImages

PhotoCredit: HarryHow/GettyImages

This has happened before, right?

The Lakers have “lost” superstars before, right? Usually it has happened after they have given so much to the Lakers organization. What I mean by that is all-star appearances, rookie of the year awards, a couple of championships here or there, and maybe even a few years of coaching. Never have they “lost” a superstar during free agency the way they did a few nights ago. The franchise is in a state of disarray.

That’s looking at it from one side of the spectrum. The side I choose to look from is very different.

Dwight Howard never fit in as a Los Angeles Laker. Not from the moment he was traded to the organization, to the Adidas “All In for L.A. commercials”, to when he announced on Twitter that he was going to become a Houston Rocket. His interviews seemed forced, his 1,000 watt smile was never as powerful and commanding as it was in Orlando, and it always seemed that he was making light of whatever situation he was in. Very different from what the Lakers have been used to since the Big Aristotle or Cactus, Superman or… you get it, left town.

When I read Yahoo Sports NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski’s latest, and maybe final, story on Dwight Howard announcing that he will become a Houston Rocket and leave the Lakers on July 10th it all came together. The reason why Howard did not fit the franchise is because he wanted it to fit him from day 1. Sorry Dwight, but that is not how things work here.

In late January when the team was in a rut there were reports about how the Lakers had a team meeting in Memphis where everything was aired out so they could all move past their difficulties. That’s not what really happened according to Wojnarowski.

Every time you trash me to teammates, it gets back to me, witnesses said Bryant told Howard in the visiting locker room of the FedEx Forum. Every time you do one of your impersonations when I walk out of the room, I find out. Everything tumbled out of Bryant, one grievance after another, and the Lakers coaches and players sat watching the two biggest personas in the room push closer together, or irreconcilably apart.

Around this time Dwight’s influence was beginning to take over the team and Kobe Bryant was not happy about it. In his mind there was no way that a player who was not dominating like he should csn come into the organization and overtake what he and countless other Lakers legends have built.

“Kobe talked to Dwight in a way that I don’t think anyone one had ever talked to him – not in Orlando, not here, not in his life, I’m betting,” one witness in the room told Yahoo! Sports. “He’s been coddled, and Kobe wasn’t going to coddle him.”

Despite what you may hear, this was not the driving issue as to why Dwight Howard left. He even stated himself that via Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times. The reason why he departed is due to the praise he did not receive in Los Angeles. You know, the type of praise that is given when you do good things like win consistently. If Howard is not adored by everyone then he will not perform like he should. It happened towards the end of his tenure with Orlando and it happened all year in Los Angeles.

“If he missed two big free throws in Orlando, it was forgotten in 30 minutes,” one league official with ties to Howard’s past says. “If he missed them in L.A., they talked about it for a week. With Dwight, he has to be the face of the franchise. Anything less than that, and it would be difficult for him to function at his highest level.”

“The conditions need to be lined up perfectly to get the most out of Dwight,” one team official who has history with Howard told Yahoo! Sports. “When he’s engaged, he can carry a team like few else in the league. Houston is suited for him.”

Now I will give Howard the credit he deserves. He came off of a possible career-ending surgery and still led the league in rebounds. My hat is off to him, no doubt whatsoever. But for the Lakers to essentially beg Howard to stay in Los Angeles is what did not sit well. He is a superstar that yes, could have become the future of the Lakers and the face for years to come, but he is not what or who the Lakers need to move forward.

To become the face of the Lakers franchise you must earn it. Point blank period.

George Mikan earned it. Elgin Baylor earned it. West and Chamberlain earned it. Kareem and Magic earned it. Kobe and Shaq earned it. Kobe and Pau earned it. They did not come into the franchise and expect for everyone to love them. They played through injuries, team chemistry issues, and even management problems all while working hard and eventually becoming champions.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

The Lakers biggest mistake would have been convincing Howard to stay and he actually did. Do the Lakers need a superstar who needs to be handed everything in order to become great? If he could not take the criticism he was receiving all year long what do you think would have happened after Kobe, Pau, and Nash all retired?

With Dr. Buss’ passing and Jim Buss currently at the helm the Lakers cannot afford too many more mistakes as is. Resigning a superstar who would turn to the culture into a laughing stock would have been a mistake for them.

The Lakers have been through this before. The difference between now and then is that everyone wants results immediately. Give the Lakers time. Yes Kobe is pushing his 18th year in the league, yes Nash is going to be 40, and yes Pau Gasol just had his 33rd birthday but in due time it will be fine. If Baylor, Chamberlain, and West needed time so does this team.

What happened when George Mikan, the franchise’s first legitimate star left the franchise for good? They drafted Elgin Baylor. Two years, and one finals appearance for Elgin, later they drafted Jerry West.

What happened when Elgin was becoming older and the duo could not conquer the Celtics? They traded for Wilt Chamberlain. After Wilt retired in 1973 and Jerry hung up his shoes 19474, who was their savior? At seasons end of 1974 they traded for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Or how about when Kareem could not win a title alone?

In comes Magic. After Kareem retired and Magic states in 1996 that he wants to go out on his own terms, what happened? The Lakers trade for Kobe Bryant on draft day and sign Shaquille O’Neal almost two weeks later. Kobe starts to publicly look elsewhere to finish his career and the Lakers land Pau Gasol.

The Lakers have a clear history of doing whatever needs to be done to improve. Yes it may still sting that Dwight Howard told them no and chose to walk away. Best of luck to him. If he feels Houston is where he will succeed then by all means go. Yes, Jim Buss hired Mike D’Antoni when he could have had Phil Jackson, but don’t forget that he and Mitch pulled the deals to bring in Nash and Howard in the first place.

If there has ever been anything constant within the Lakers organization it has been that they are always a few moves away from being prominent once again. This is just another chapter in the Lakers history book. Rather than become frustrated and spiteful, let us just watch as they plan on making history again.

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