The Los Angeles Lakers used to be the most successful team in the NBA, but over the last three years the franchise has declined and Outside the Lines reporter Steve Delsohn interviewed multiple sources to find out why.
The special report will air on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2 and a longer conversation is available now via WatchESPN.
Lakers President Jeanie Buss and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss were at the top of Delsohn’s list to interview.
“We [Delsohn and producer Willie Weinbaum] asked for both Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss and only Jeanie agreed, which was not really a surprise because Jim Buss rarely does interviews,” said Delsohn. “To go along with Jeanie, we ended up interviewing three candid former Lakers: Byron Scott, Matt Barnes and Carlos Boozer.”
Having a variety of personalities allowed each subject to lend something different to the piece. Because of Jeanie Buss’ position in the company and a unique family dynamic, she was a fascinating subject.
“She is in an interesting position. Although she’s team president, I think she’s trying to honor the wishes of her late father Jerry, who chose her brother Jim to run basketball operations,” Delsohn said. “But she also has an obligation to the fans and the Lakers’ business partners to make the team successful. Whether Jim can do that, from a basketball standpoint, is a question that’s still being asked around the league. And if the team doesn’t start winning, Jeanie is going to face a tough decision.”
– OTL reporter Steve Delsohn talking about his interview with Lakers president Jeanie Buss and her take on retaining her brother, executive Jim Buss
Delsohn was prepared to discuss the possible outcomes of another losing season with Jeanie, one being the firing of Jim Buss, a topic that anyone in the president’s position might be hesitant to answer. She might be even more reluctant to answer since it involves her brother. Knowing this, Delsohn paid a lot of attention to how she answered the question.
“She never said she would fire him; she did say she would do ‘whatever it takes’ to make the Lakers successful,” Delsohn said. “By the way she said it, and in the context of our conversation, it seemed to imply that she would dismiss Jim if the team did not improve and if he refused to step down. But again, she never directly said that.”
When discussing what surprised Delsohn most about his interviews, he admitted nothing really surprised him, but he was pleased that Jeanie Buss was willing to talk.
“I wasn’t surprised, but I was gratified that Jeanie seemed willing to have an honest conversation, especially when we nudged her off of her talking points,” he said. “There are many team presidents who would never go on-camera in the midst of a three-year skid like the Lakers are having.”
The Lakers try to reverse their fortunes this season beginning on Wednesday night when they host the Houston Rockets on ESPN (see sidebar above for programming details).