Lakers owner Jeanie Buss opened up about the state of the Lakers and the direction the franchise is heading as she revealed more details of how Los Angeles landed LeBron James during the summer and revealed insight into coach Luke Walton’s job security.
During an appearance on ESPN’s “The Lowe Podcast” earlier this week, Buss was candid about how the Lakers went about targeting and eventually signing the former Cavaliers star during free agency. She revealed that she put her full trust in Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, who met with James the night free agency began, though she wasn’t there for the pitch meeting.
“The meeting that Earvin had with LeBron – I knew they were going to have a meeting. I didn’t know where it was going to be. I didn’t know what time it was going to be, and I have complete confidence in Magic and I think he’s done a great job and so I knew he would give his best pitch to all the free agents we were pursuing and certainly LeBron being the No. 1 free agent out there in terms of what he brings to a team.
“We were optimistic, but we also knew LeBron had to take the time that he needed to make his decision so while we were hoping for a quick decision, we wanted him to have his process. And so when we did find out – it was by text about 5 o’clock the next day. … I received a text from his agent.”
Buss added she was “very happy and relieved that LeBron” wanted to be a part of what the Lakers are building, and he’s already made a big impact.
“Just watching him practice, having him part of the organization, he brings so much,” Buss said. “I had forgotten what it was like to have the most relevant player, the most exciting player, successful player be on our team. It’s brought attention.”
One topic of speculation around the Lakers has been adding another star to join James. While Buss wouldn’t reveal whether those rumors are true, she did say she’s happy with the team’s progress.
“I think that Magic has been patient, I think (general manager) Rob Pelinka has done amazing things in terms of giving our roster flexibility and not just taking a shortcut to try and just make the playoffs only to lose in the first round,” Buss said. “They see the picture, and they’re taking those steps. They’re not going to take a shortcut to try get quick fix just to make the playoffs and give up … any of our assets.
“I’m satisfied where we are and at the start of the season my expectations were to be in the playoffs, but given the injuries, you have to see that compromises you. Those are things that are out of our control. Certainly the team has kept us in there. We’re not buried at the bottom, there’s light. Hopefully we’ll start getting these players back sooner than later.”
As for Walton’s job security with the Lakers now 25-24? Buss said Walton has the front office’s full support.
“I can tell you right now that everyone in the organization is behind Luke,” Buss said. “We are doing everything we can to make sure Luke is successful in his job. That’s our job, and I think he’s doing a terrific job. And given the injuries that we’ve had, it’s a challenge. People forget he’s had two of our starters taken away from him, and they’ve won really important games on the road, proving what is possible, even without LeBron.”
Buss, however, wasn’t willing to give a straight answer when asked if Walton is 100 percent safe for the rest of the season.
“You’re asking the wrong person,” Buss said. “The vision has to come from Magic. But from where I sit, from what I can tell you, every single thing that we’re doing, every person from the organization is here to make Luke successful.”