The Future is Female

Jeanie-Buss-1Don’t worry LakHer fans, this is not a political blog post. Instead, I will be covering something much less tumultuous: the legal battle between the Buss siblings. This week ESPN dropped an article detailing the drama around the Lakers’ ownership. Before you read any further, I highly recommend you go and read this article.

Last month it appeared that Jimmy retaliated against his firing by trying and stage a coup with his brother Johnny. In the moment, I was completely terrified. I was still celebrating Jeanie firing his ass, and then it appeared he was going to throw her out and take over control of the Lakers. I was not OK with that. In my darkest hour I was telling people that I would no longer be a Lakers fan if Jimmy won. I was prepared to shut down the blog and stop watching Lakers basketball. It was a dark time.

Ultimately, Jeanie emerged victorious. She maintained control and got Jimmy to resign from the board of trustees and replaced him with her ally. I sat there trying to figure out what the hell just happened. I read articles trying to dissect this trust, but most of these articles were focused on the sibling infighting. I didn’t care how much Jeanie and Jimmy hated each other. I cared about the legal issues/consequences of this fight. My interests were in the future of Lakers basketball and management. After the ESPN article came out, I consulted with my brother and official LakHer Blog legal correspondent, AW. He provided enough context that I think I now understand what happened, and hopefully can explain it to all of you.

Legal Battle Breakdown

Let’s first discuss the main issue at the heart of this legal battle: the trust (OK, so it turns out it isn’t a single trust but four nearly identical trusts which work together to form a sort of mega-trust, but for ease of reference I am going to refer to the four trusts in the post as a single trust). The organizational documents of the trust are not public, so all information previously known about the trust has been hearsay. Thanks to this drama, we now know a little bit more about how the Buss trust is set up, because certain information about the trust was included in certain publicly filed documents. According to Janie Buss, Dr. Buss set up the trust for his 6 children to go to the “last man standing.” Essentially, all 6 kids split the 66% of the Lakers, but as each child dies off, the rest of the siblings absorb the remaining share. Eventually there will be 1 child remaining and they will have all 66% of the Lakers ownership owned by the trust. This means that, at least theoretically, the trust immensely benefits the youngest child Joey, but is detrimental to the older siblings (Johnny and Jimmy).

When I first heard about this set up, I immediately thought of the princes in the movie Stardust. Just like in the movie, I believe this set up incentivizes siblings to murder each other.

 

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The future for the Buss siblings. (Screen grab from the movie Stardust)

There are a lot of pros and cons for setting up a trust like this, and I will focus on the impact for the Lakers later on in this blog. For now, let’s discuss why Jimmy and Johnny “tried” to overthrow Jeanie.

While the trust has 6 beneficiaries (all the Buss children) it has 3 trustees (Jeanie, Jimmy and Johnny), who actually administer and run the trust. Here is where things get a little soap opera like. According to various sources cited in the ESPN article linked to above, Jimmy and Johnny wanted Jeanie to agree to amend the trust. In particular, it is thought that they wanted to be able to access more cash from the trust than they are currently entitled to – Johnny so he could have a larger legacy for his children and Jimmy so he could pay for his expensive real-estate habit. We know it is possible for the trust to be amended if all three trustees agree to amend it, because the trust has been amended using this procedure several times already. However, it appears that Jeanie didn’t agree to these amendments. So, Jimmy and Johnny aggressively played a weak hand. While the trust requires the consensus of all 3 trustees to amend it, it only requires a majority to take most other actions. So Jimmy and Johnny used their combined majority vote to do something that most experts (and now a judge) agree is forbidden by the terms of the trust – they removed Jeanie from the board of directors of the Lakers, which would have prevented her from acting as the “controlling owner” of the Lakers. This was a calculated move, and it left Jeanie with 2 choices:

  1. Negotiate with her siblings and agree to some form of restructuring of the trust; or
  2. Take them to court and air the family dirty laundry

Jeanie took the badass approach and went with option number 2. She filed an action in court to prevent her brothers from removing her from the board of directors, and the judge quickly agreed and ordered the brothers to comply. She then went one step further, flexing her muscles and had her lawyer threaten to look into Jimmy’s finances. He is (allegedly) broke, and being “financially insolvent” can get you removed from the board of trustees. It worked. He resigned from the board, and she replaced him with her ally Janey. It was a boss move.

Future of the Lakers

After AW explained all of this to me, my first question was this: does that mean this is all over? The answer is a bit complicated.

In the short term, this fight is over. Janie is “Team Jeanie” so Johnny is outnumbered in staging any sort of coup. He needs either Janie or Jeanie to help him do anything. This appears to be unlikely. This means for the next 30-40 years (knock wood), the team will remain in Jeanie’s control. The issue now comes back to that “last man standing” trust. I told you we would be coming back to it.

Eventually Jeanie will die, (either of natural causes or murderous rage from a disgruntled sibling) and the shares will go to the last Buss standing. In all likelihood, that will be Joey. This means that unless Jeanie and her siblings restructure the trust in the future, the Lakers will be in the hands of Joey, and then his children. That scares me a bit. I do not want another incompetent Buss running my beloved Lakers. Jeanie has proven to be a badass and to put the team before her personal relationships. I am willing to role with her for a bit to see what she can do with this new team. I have less faith in Joey and his children.

This revelation terrified me, so I went back and read my very first blog post from 3 ½ years ago. I wrote that blog to give my brother hope for the Lakers. I discussed why I was hopeful for the future despite all the issues they were facing. I was pretty spot on with a lot of the issues. However, I got one thing very wrong: the Jimmy and Jeanie duo. I talked about putting family first and having a united front. I also called Jeanie a “glorified groupie.” I would like to take this moment to apologize to Jeanie for that comment. Her actions took some steal ovaries, and I am impressed. She put this organization before her relationship with her brother, and that is something I will not forget. Her brother definitely deserves what he got, but I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to go to war with him like that. Now that Jeanie has cleaned house and put in a new team, I think she will do great. I believe she will ensure the future of the Lakers and not make the mistake of allowing this team to fall into the wrong hands again (despite her father’s wishes). I can honestly say, I am more hopeful than ever.

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Questioning Mitch Kupchak’s Judgment

Mitch-on-phoneThe other day I offered my opinions and analysis after the trade deadline, now it is Kupchak’s turn. I have to say that despite all the bad times the Lakers have experienced over the last few years, I have never once questioned Mitch’s vision or judgment, until now. Reading this Q&A has left some serious doubts in my head, so lets dive in and look at the highlights:

On Expectations for the Season:

“I’m not gonna cry about injuries, but we were hopeful certainly that Kobe and Julius Randle would be able to play the full season, and that would be fun. I thought Julius would make us into a 60-win team”

That quote tells me that Mitch may have become a bit delusional. First of all, Julius was struggling in the pre-season. There were serious doubts about him being able to make the transition into the NBA. We see a lot of great draft picks flounder in the NBA, and it looked like Julius might be one of them. Second of all, Kobe is 36 years old coming off back-to-back career ending injuries, so the fact that Mitch thought he could play a full season is ridiculous. Kobe had battled injuries for years and has needed to sit out games. However, lets enter this beautiful imagination land and assume all the best-case scenarios. Lets assume for a moment that both Kobe and Julius were able to play a full season. Lets also pretend that Kobe was playing at his all-star best, and that Julius was on the verge of winning “Rookie of the Year.” Even if all those things happened, they still wouldn’t be a 60 game winning team. It is incredibly difficult to win that many games, and it would be nearly impossible to do that in this current western conference, especially with the remaining supporting cast.

On Magic Johnson’s Criticism:

(Recap: Magic recently took more shots at Jimmy for not listening to Mitch)

“I didn’t see all of Earvin’s comments. I have the same authority that I had with Dr. Buss. Jerry West had the same authority with Dr. Buss, and I’ve got that same authority with Jimmy. Jimmy and I work very closely together, and he does not make decisions in a vacuum. For some reason, he gets a lot of the criticism, and maybe that just comes along with a transition from an owner like Dr. Buss, but that’s not fair. Any decision or anything that’s happened in the last two or three years that people have a problem with, I was involved or leading the way. So, if there’s criticism, then it should then be directed at me as well. He is not making decisions in a vacuum. He and I work very closely together. And quite frankly, if it gets to the point where he and I don’t agree, I think he would defer to me, which is pretty much what Dr. Buss would do, although from time to time, Dr. Buss would say, ‘Well Mitch…’ or ‘Well Jerry, I hear you, but we’re gonna do this.’ But most of the time, Dr. Buss and Jimmy would defer to the basketball person.”

Well I believe that statement is half true. I believe he has the exact same authority that he had under Jerry that he now has under Jimmy. I believe that Mitch is allowed to pursue trades and deals, but not take any action without the owner’s approval. However, I believe the next step/statement is where everything falls apart. I do believe that Jerry mostly listened to Mitch, but I believe that Jimmy has simply stuck his head in the sand. Why do I believe that? Because we saw amazing deals happen and adjustments happen under Jerry, but with Jimmy we have seen nothing but consistently bad ideas.

Remember when we drafted Andrew Bynum? That was when Jerry was grooming Jimmy to take over. Jimmy was the one who decided to draft Andrew; despite the fact that we knew he was going to have knee issues. Then for years Jimmy refused to allow any trade talks to revolve around him. Kobe hated Andrew Bynum, but Jimmy stuck to his guns despite Kobe even threatening to leave the Lakers. That’s right he was so stubborn we almost lost our super star over him. Then remember that Chris Paul trade that was vetoed? Notice how we were going to ship out Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, aka 2 out of our big 3, but Andrew Bynum was conveniently staying put? The only reason we ever got rid of Andrew was because Mitch was able to convince Jerry in a moment of lucidity to swap him for Dwight Howard. Publicly Jimmy said that he supported that decision, but there have been rampant rumors that there was fighting over this deal.

Another moment that showed his absolute stubbornness at the detriment of the team: picking D’Antoni or Phil Jackson. Publicly, he has blamed that decision on his dead father, and his own sister shut him up and said that their father was way too sick to be involved in that discussion. I believe Jeannie since Jerry passed away shortly after. It is known publicly that Jimmy doesn’t like Phil and is intimidated by his knowledge. Smart leaders surround themselves with smart people that will challenge them. Remember Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals” or JFK’s “Devils Advocate?” I remember listening to Charles Barkley criticize Michael Jordan as an owner because he went out to dinner with him before draft night, and realized that Michael had surrounded himself with all “Yes Men.” In the end the Bobcats ended up drafting Adam Morrison instead of Brandon Roy. Unfortunately, that appears to be what Jimmy wants too, despite what Mitch is saying publicly.

I do not blame Mitch for making those comments. The Lakers have an image problem and it doesn’t do him any good to throw his owner under the bus. That never works out for anyone (just ask Charlie Sheen). However, that will not stop people like Magic and me from pointing out the obvious.

A Week in Review 12/7-12/14

My Dad and I at the Lakers v Hornets game 12/7. Thank you Mike Alder for the tickets!

My Dad and I at the Lakers v Hornets game 12/7. Thank you Mike Alder for the tickets!

Hi LakHer fans! I decided I had too much to talk about this week, so I hope you enjoy this week in review! Here are the important stories that came out of LALA land last week.

Lakers lose to New Orleans

For the last 4 years I would go to NOLA’s arena with Abi to watch these two play each other, but this time I changed things up and watched them at Staples. Unfortunately, the highlight of the game was my halftime cake with my dad. Unlike me, the Lakers didn’t show up for the game. It was a blowout, so I do not have much to say. I only do work on my end when the Lakers will do work on their end. Regardless of the game turns out, I always have a blast, so thank you Mike Alder for the tickets!

“Soft as Charmin”

One of the biggest stories of the week was the media coverage of a Lakers practice. Reporters watched as Kobe verbally bitch slapped his teammates. It is no secret that Kobe is a trash talker, but these comments really took people off guard. Some of his teammates, like Lin, were even visibly upset by them.

Personally, I didn’t really get what the big deal was. This is Kobe being Kobe. If the players were upset by it, then they really are as “soft as Charmin.” Kobe admits his leadership style doesn’t work for everyone and that it can upset players at times, but he was trying to motivate his team. I would like to point out that since he made those comments, the Lakers are 3-0 and one of those games came against the defending champions.

Charmin responds to the Kobe drama

Charmin responds to the Kobe drama

Kobe did acknowledge that the trash talking was a bit harsher than usual, but that’s what happens when you are losing. He told reporters that the whole conversation actually made him a bit uncomfortable, because he obviously doesn’t want to hurt his teammates, but he grew up trash talking. He even said that it is a lost art. Maybe his words were a little harsh for a fellow teammate, but I have certainly heard worse things come out of Garnet, Miller, and Pierce’s mouths. I mean, Reggie Miller grabbed his crouch during his game and made a chocking sign, I think that is a bit more offensive.

Speaking of chocking…

“I Can’t Breathe”

I try to keep these posts basketball focused. If I am not talking about the game, then I am normally talking about what is happening behind the scenes. But this week something bigger than basketball happened. It all started when Derek Rose came out for warm ups wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt. For those of you unaware, this was in reference to Eric Garner’s last words before he died after being put into a choke hold by police.

Police brutality has been a big issue in the country for the last 2 weeks, and the conversation does not seem to be going away. After Rose wore the shirt, LeBron followed suit, and then so did the entire Lakers team (minus Sacre). The shirt made a huge statement, so much so that even our president came out in support.

I Can't Breathe

There is a long history of politics seeping its way into the sports world, so it is not surprising that this issue has taken over the NBA. This league is predominately comprised of black players, so they were going to take a stance since this issue has been trending with #blacklivesmatter.

Personally, I am very happy that the Lakers took this stand. I will fully admit that I have been very upset with all the violence that has been happening and the lack of indictments. Wearing that shirt is a peaceful way for the Lakers to show their disappointment with our system, and get the issue lots of attention. Unfortunately, right now most of that attention is going to the handful of looters and violent protesters. Prominent figures like Kobe, Rose and James can help adjust the conversation.

#3

Last night Kobe hit a very big mile stone. He passed Michael Jordan and took over the #3 spot on the scoring list. It was a great moment and I am so thrilled for him. The Timberwolves showed class by stopping the game to present him with the ball and acknowledge the moment.

I know everyone wanted Kobe to pass Michael with a fade away shot, but honestly it really doesn’t matter. No one will remember the exact shot that passed Michael. Kobe got it on a free throw because like Michael, he knows how to draw fouls.

On the subject of 3’s, I have to talk about our Swaggy P’s game winner against San Antonio. When that shot went up I was convinced we were doomed. Ginobli was all over Nick Young, but good defense was defeated by better offense. I guess he’s right in saying nobody can guard him! Congrats to Swaggy for the amazing shot, and thank you for giving us Lakers fans an exciting game against our longtime rival.

Speaking of San Antonio, I would like to take a quick moment to recognize Tim Duncan. In our match up on Friday, Tim passed our very own Jerry West for 18th on the scoring list. While it is never easy to see someone else take a spot from him, I truly admire Tim Duncan. I would love to just hate him. For years he was our biggest obstacle, but he is an absolute class act. He is a future hall of fame player, and I really can’t find anything negative to say about him. That drives me crazy! So congratulations Tim Duncan, you deserve it.

Buss Kids Interview

This week the dynamic duo were on damage control, since you know, the Lakers are losing and Kobe is busy comparing his teammates to a product people wipe their asses with. Therefore, they decided it would be a good idea to give a joint interview. We all know that I could spend hours talking about the Wonder Twins, but I will save you the time and just give you the highlights:

Tanking is Unforgivable

Jim and Jeannie put the notion to rest that there would be any chance of the Lakers tanking the rest of the season, per Magic’s request. I understand the damage it does to players and a brand. That doesn’t mean that I do not see where Magic is coming from. I do want that draft pick.

Jeannie is still upset about the D’Antoni hiring

Let’s take a look at this Q&A:
Jeanie, you have been on record as saying that the Lakers let Dwight Howard down. What did you mean by that?
Jeanie:
It came down to hiring a coach. [The Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni in November 2012.] When you have a big man and a guard, you have to decide whom you’re going to build your team around. The choice was to build it around Steve Nash and what suited Steve Nash instead of what suited Dwight Howard.

I have to say that she is right on the money. The Lakers picked a coach and built around a 38 year old point guard instead of the young Super Star Center. If you keep reading the interview, Jim tries to backtrack and blames it on Jerry. Sure, go ahead and blame the dead guy who can’t defend himself, classy move Jimbo. Needless to say it is a fascinating segment.

The Lakers have Virtually No Game Plan

When Jim is asked about his pitch to free agents this summer, he says, “The pitch is we can go for two max players. And we have room to solidify the team with others.” Yes Jim, you have the money to sign them, but why on earth do they want to play for you? Unless players decide to pull a James-Wade-Bosh and all meet up in one place, then it isn’t going to happen. We are a terrible team, and players have no faith in ownership. Kobe is our only real asset and he is on the verge of retirement. Needless to say, if this interview was supposed to give me faith for the future, then it failed miserably.

Jeannie Doesn’t Anticipate the Lakers Missing the Playoffs

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I am sorry, I thought that was a joke?

Jim is sticking by his Promise

I brought this up in my last post how Jim said he would step down if the Lakers are not back on top in 3 years. He reinforced that promise in this interview. Jeannie supported him and said the Lakers are on track to be on top in 3 years. (Another joke)?

I have already exhausted this issue, but I am happy to see him not back peddling.

Let the Countdown Begin

NBA1400-LAL-ZM-1It is no secret that I am not Jim Buss’ biggest fan. I have written many blog posts criticizing his management style (and hair). Today though, Ben Bolch of the LA Times impressed me with his analysis of Jim Buss, and the time line he laid out for Lakers fans. Just to recap: back in April Jim promised us Lakers fans that the Lakers would be contenders in 3-4 years, if he could not deliver on that promise, then he promised to step back from the team. Bolch discusses two very important issues in this article: the Lakers approach in the off season, and actually waiting 3 more years to see in the inevitable. While I agree with many of Bolch’s points, I see things slightly differently.

When it comes to the off season, I mostly agree with Bolch’s initial analysis, “[Jim Buss] used an all-or-nothing approach the last two summers and there was no need to guess which side the Lakers came out on. Their resulting rosters weren’t going to make the playoffs, fully intact or not…Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak failed to bring in the kind of mid-tier free agents who would have kept the Lakers competitive and provided tradable assets, instead waiting for, well, what, exactly? The summer of 2015?” I have always preached that the Lakers needed to be bulk up and be prepared for the summer of 2015, but I didn’t mean that they should fill their roster with scrubs. You need to have assets to lure free agents to come play for you, and right now the Lakers are severely lacking in that department.

One of my biggest dreams for the Lakers has been for them to acquire Brandon Jennings. I have wanted him on our team since he was drafted in in 2009. A couple of weeks ago he came out and staunchly defended Kobe Bryant. He proclaimed his desire to play with the superstar and said he would have multiple rings by now if he was a Laker. He will be a free agent in 2016, but he could have been a free agent in 2013 if we could have gotten involved and stopped his sign and trade to Detroit. This talented point guard was the runner up to “Rookie of the Year” and will be a superstar. I want him on our team! Block is right, we need more mid-tier free agents, and he is one of them!

Bolch discussed the 2015 free agency class, and essentially dismissed it. He doesn’t think we can get any of the big players and downgraded a bunch of the high valued players. I disagree with Block on his assessment of Rondo. The relationship between Rondo and the Celtics has been deteriorating for years, and everyone knows he will leave if he isn’t traded first. I can see no better way for Rondo to give that organization the middle finger, then by leaving it for its biggest rival. I will however agree with the injury concerns that Bolch mentioned. I do not believe they are as bad as Nash, but it is something we would have to be aware of.

I will also agree with Bolch’s assessment of Kevin Love, Dragic, and Gasol. Barring some big catastrophe, I do not see him walking away from James and Irving. Once that trade was completed that eliminated all hope of him playing for the Lakers in the near future. I also agree that Dragic and Marc Gasol are long shots. They will probably stay put unless something major happens. Sorry to burst your bubble fans, but I do not want to fill your head with false hope.

I still think Aldridge is a possibility since I do not see Portland getting out of the second round. Portland does not have the same allure as LA, so I think it is very possible he could jump ship with the hopes of luring in other players with him.

I will also concur that Greg Monroe, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap, Omer Asik and Wesley Matthews are more “complementary pieces than franchise-altering stars,” but we already discussed the Lakers need to get those types of players. Therefore it is crucial that the Lakers acquire at least one of those, especially if they are unable to catch one of the big fish.

Lastly, I would like to discuss Ben’s fear of waiting 3 years for the inevitable to occur. Unlike Ben, I am going to take a more optimistic approach. Since Buss set this deadline there are really only 2 outcomes.

First possible outcome: the Lakers are still dreadful and Buss steps down. This appears to be the most likely scenario, especially given the Lakers current 3-13 standing. This is the worst case scenario, but it will end up working out for the best. After the 2018 season if the Lakers are still bad, then Buss will step down and put someone else in charge, and that person will most likely be more competent than Jimbo. They can’t be worse right? Therefore we will actually have someone to put the Lakers on track to greatness again. Sure it will suck to be terrible for multiple years, but it may be a necessary sacrifice for Buss to see that he is not the man for the job. Once the Lakers can get good management in place, then LA will be a desirable destination again. Change in management can change everything (just ask the Clippers).

Second possible outcome: Jim rises to the pressure and actually puts together a good team. This outcome would be fantastic for the Lakers. Everyone is happy (except for Mark Cuban) and we have a young management team that proves they can put a good team together. As long as players have faith in an owner/GM then they will gamble on them. No one ever doubted Jerry’s ability to put together a great team, and that is why every player in the league wanted to play for the Lakers.

Technically, there is a third possible outcome: the Lakers are still terrible in 2018, but Jim Buss refuses to leave. Personally, I do not see this being very likely. The media in LA would hound him, and I do not think anyone would take him seriously again. Jimbo has put himself into a corner and he is going to face the music. The worst case scenario if the Lakers were still terrible in 2018 would be that he hires a figure head who takes credit for all the decisions, but is the one actually making the decisions.

Despite all my instincts telling me otherwise, I am going to choose to remain optimistic and hope that Buss rises to the challenge. Mitch is a great GM and I highly doubt that he is on board with all the decisions and strategies that Buss is currently implementing. My hope is that Buss realizes he is over is head, and starts taking Mitch’s advice more seriously. Otherwise, we will always have 2018.

P.S. Great win against the Raptors!

Why Lakers Fans Need to be Prepared for Another Tough Season

lakers-ship-sinking1A lot has happened since my last blog post: we acquired Carlos Boozer via amnesty (see I told you so Bulls!), we also officially signed multiple players, but most importantly, we finally hired Byron Scott.

After D’Antoni mercifully resigned (for roughly $2 million), I wrote a post discussing all of our coaching options and threw my support behind Scott. He is a good coach who bleeds purple and gold, and he was Jerry’s pick, not Jim’s. I only mention this fact because Jerry had a fantastic record when it comes to picking coaches, and we all know how Jimmy’s choices worked out.

Now that our roster is mostly full, it is time to analyze our team. For the purposes of this blog post I am only going to analyze the changes. We lost Pau Gasol but gained Julius Randle, Ed Davis, and Carlos Boozer. Additionally, we lost Kendall Marshall but gained Jeremy Lin.

Starting at the power forward position, I believe we may be slightly weaker. I love Pau and was devastated to see him go. Carlos Boozer is a solid power forward, but he has injury problems and he is not the same man who dominated in Utah. I am pretty unfamiliar with Davis, but based upon my research, he has the potential but has never seemed to break out, so hopefully he can have a Swaggy P type year. Lastly, I have always admitted that I am unfamiliar with the NCAA, therefore I only know what has been reported about Randle. I am always hesitant to trust a rookie since we have seen so many high draft picks flounder in the NBA. I believe that Randle will be a good power forward, however, I am not going to put all my eggs in that basket, not yet at least. The reason I am concerned about our power forwards, is that none of these players have Pau’s shooting or passing abilities. Also, Pau can play the 4 or the 5, whereas these players are going to be at the 4 or 3 position. Defensively, I am concerned about our size. We saw how Miami struggled against teams with true centers, and we need to be a better defensive team then last year.

Next, I want to criticize the Lakers for waiving Kendall Marshall. I liked Kendall despite some of his deficiencies. Also, he was making less than $1 million this year, so I cannot comprehend why we decided to waive him for financial reasons instead of the injured 40-year-old point guard making $7 million. I am sorry but those numbers do not add up. Steve Nash will not play more than 30 games this year, and that number is extremely optimistic. I personally do not believe he will play that many. I would expect maybe 20 games at the most out of him, and he will be playing limited minutes. I do not understand why we did not waive Nash. We have no loyalty to him. He got injured almost immediately after we acquired him, and he has struggled to stay healthy since. I understand that we should respect him since he is a future Hall of Famer, but he had all of his accomplishments in Phoenix; we do not owe him anything. He has even admitted the only reason he isn’t retiring is because of the money. Therefore, we should have just paid him (via amnesty), and had the cap space to sign some other players.

I already discussed Jeremy Lin in my last post, so I am going to be brief. We did get an upgrade at the point guard position. I also said that we were only renting him for the year so we should not get too attached. However, Mitch came out at the press conference and admitted that this was the third time that he had gone after Lin. Apparently he wanted him since he played at Harvard. Therefore, we may actually try to resign him next summer.

In this post’s title I told fans to be prepared for another bad year. Basically it looks like our roster is slightly improved. However there is one big factor I have yet to mention, and I like to call it the “Mamba Factor.” Kobe only played a few games last year, hence our team only winning 27 games. Now, I want to believe more than anyone that Kobe will be back at full force next year. Unfortunately, if watching Steve Nash fall apart has taught me anything, it is that once a player suffers a serious injury, they may never be the same again. Kobe has now taken to huge breaks to rest up and heal. Both he and the Lakers organization say he will be ready next year, but it is important to not get too excited. We need to manage our expectations in case this blows up again.

If Kobe comes back and is still a great player, then the Lakers have a shot to be a decent team. However, that can only happen if he is able to score around 20 points per game. I know that the idea of Kobe not being able to put up 30 whenever he wants is a scary thought for Lakers fans, but we need to face reality. He is entering his 18th season and has suffered some career ending injuries. If he is able to play more than half the games and put up over 15 points, then we need to count our blessings.

I have decided to be optimistic and say that Kobe will make it through a decent amount of games and put up solid numbers, and I am basing that on our new coach. I have always blamed the plethora of injuries on D’Antoni and his crazy offensive system, but Scott is smarter and will take Kobe’s health into consideration. Scott is a defensive minded coach, but he did play for Showtime and understands the importance of having a good system. Scott may not slow down the game to “triangle speeds” but he won’t make the Lakers run around like D’Antoni.

If the stars line up perfectly, and the Lakers are healthy, and all the players exceed expectations, then the Lakers have a shot of making it into the playoffs and getting eliminated in the first round. However, I always feel that it is my job to tell my readers the truth and not fill you with false hope. As we currently stand, the Lakers will probably not make the playoffs this year unless the stars align for them and everything else goes to hell for the elite western conference teams.

Lastly, since this free agency cycle is coming to an end, I think it is good for the Lakers to learn from their mistakes so they can retool for next summer when the stakes are higher. First off, I think it was stupid that they let all these solid free agents get away because they played the waiting game with LeBron and Melo. They were never going to come to the Lakers, and that is fine that they wanted to give it a shot, but then you need to keep building as if they are not coming. If either one of those guys decided that they wanted to come play for the Lakers, then the Lakers would have figured out a way to move pieces around to sign them. You do not put everything on hold hoping for one of them to save the day. Remember my comment about putting all of your eggs in one basket?

Now I also think the Lakers need to work on damage control and get their publicist working over time. Whenever I watch ESPN or hear any of the analysts talking about the Lakers, they always say that it is no longer a premier destination. The more they say it, the more it becomes a reality. It does not matter that the Lakers were the most profitable team last year (by about $100 million) despite having one of the worst records. Ever since Jerry died people think that the culture died with him. Jim Buss needs to get his ego in check and start following in daddy’s footsteps. Jerry was famous for caring about his players without going overboard like Mark Cuban. He would invite the players over and constantly take them out to dinner.

Kobe came out a few months ago and criticized Jim Buss. It is not a secret that Jim has spent no time with his star player, and Kobe has not been happy about it. The reason why both Lakers fans and players like Jeannie more is because of Phil. Phil would take the players out and spend time with them, and of course he would bring his longtime girl friend with him. Jeannie has more of a voice in the organization because of Phil, not her father. Recently Kobe has been speaking very favorably about the wonder siblings because he realizes that the Lakers will keep missing out on free agents if they think the owners are a problem. If we have learned anything from the Sterling scandal, it is that the owners do matter to the players, even if it is not their first priority.

Per usual, I do not like to criticize the Lakers without offering up some suggestions. Jim Buss needs to get his face out there more, and it needs to be in a favorable light. He needs to take Kobe and maybe the entire team out to dinner at one of the paparazzi favorite restaurants (Mr. Chows?) and then make sure the story ends up in the media. If he starts giving off the impression that he cares about his players, then people will start to believe it. The more he acts like his beloved father, the more people will start to see him that way.

My business professors at Tulane always stressed to me the importance of relationships; I even took a Relationship Marketing Class. Jim needs to develop relationships with his players, staff, and the media. Until we retool the image problem around the Lakers, we will not be able to get back to an elite competitive status.

 

How Stern Exacerbated the Sterling Saga

chris-paul-sternHey LakHer fans! Hope you didn’t miss me too much!  I am back after letting “legal expert” Adam Waks take over for a few days. The Sterling debacle has lead to a lot of discussion and debate. It has stirred up a lot of emotions for everyone who has been touched by this story.

Adam covered some of the legal issues surrounding this saga in the last few days, but now I want to look back a bit further. People have been criticizing the NBA for failing to take action against Donald Sterling sooner. There have been accusations for years: between the DOJ settlement and the Elgin Baylor termination lawsuit. People want to know why the NBA didn’t take action in those cases. Well, without going too deep into the legal issues (since I like to leave those to Adam), I can say that they probably did not have a choice.

The DOJ case was settled, and that does not necessarily mean Sterling was guilty. Of course, we now can all believe that Sterling was guilty, but people settle for various reasons. He may have thought it was cheaper to settle than fight, certain pieces of evidence brought up at trial could have tarnished his reputation, or he simply did not want to deal with the negative publicity. During his press conference, Silver explained that every allegation was investigated; unfortunately, once the case was settled, their investigation probably ended as well.

The same goes for Elgin Baylor. I will always have faith in my Laker, but he lost his case in court. Sterling was given due process, so the NBA was cornered. The NBA cannot punish Sterling on Baylor’s word alone, especially once the courts ruled in Sterling’s favor. My fans may be unhappy with this view, but since I come from a family of lawyers (sorry Grandma Barbara), I must respect the process.

Of course, there have been other allegations over the years. Baron Davis accused Sterling of heckling him during practice. I have no idea if those allegations were investigated. However, it is public knowledge that NBA have tried to convince Sterling to sell in the past, therefore it would make sense that they would try to get as much ammunition as possible to entice him to sell.

Now, here is where there is a wrinkle in the story. In December 2011, David Stern forever tainted his reputation as commissioner by vetoing the Chis Paul trade to the Lakers. Stern let owners like Dan Gilbert bully him into overturning a trade. There was no legitimate reason for this veto; the owners were simply tired of the Lakers getting superstars.

There is a reason why the Lakers attract superstars. We had a wonderful owner in Dr. Buss, we are located in beautiful Los Angeles, and we are one of the most successful franchises in history.

Owners can bemoan all they want, but we are a great organization. However, that year David Stern had the power to veto a trade made by the Hornets. It is ironic that I am complaining about how Stern took over a team from an owner, but I am rejoicing in Silver doing the exact same thing to Sterling. Believe me, I see it.

However, this move was catastrophic for everyone. First off, we ended up with two unhappy all stars, and eventually had to trade Lamar Odom for draft picks. Those draft picks eventually led to the acquisition of Steve Nash (see this whole veto is still biting us in the ass).

Next, and more importantly, Stern gave CP3 to Sterling on a silver platter. For 30 years the Clippers had been a punch line, but now they are contenders.

The acquisition of Chris Paul substantially increased the value of the Clippers. Sterling bought the Clippers for $12.5 million back in 1981. However, the Milwaukee Bucks were recently sold for a cool $550 million. The Bucks are a small market, unsuccessful team. This means that we can expect Sterling to make a huge profit by selling the team. Big offers will come in from the ever expanding list of interested celebrities. He will make a much more substantial profit now, then he would have if that trade had never been vetoed.

 

 

 

What Legal Recourse Does the NBA Have Against Donald Sterling?

anchormanwhatdidyousayI have been hearing from a lot of my loyal fans about the legal issues currently facing Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Although I am passingly familiar with the law, I thought it would be helpful to get an expert* to weigh in on the topic. To that end, here is my brother, for a first-ever guest post!

Hello LakHer fans! I’m very excited to have this opportunity to speak to you directly on several topics near and dear to my heart – basketball, legal analysis, and inappropriate comments from an employer! Actually, this article will focus on a somewhat narrow topic that has been generating a lot of commentary since TMZ released Donald Sterling’s remarks last week: assuming the comments are confirmed as Sterling’s, what legal tools does the NBA possess to punish Mr. Sterling for what is widely viewed as reprehensible conduct?

The short answer is that the NBA has three general tools: they can fine him, they can suspend him, and they can try and force him to sell the team. However, having a tool is not the same thing as being willing to use it, and for reasons I will explain in more detail below, I think the likely outcome is that the NBA will fine Sterling, and they will more than likely suspend him, but they will not force him to sell.

Initial Issues

The First Amendment: This is actually a non-issue, but I have heard several questions on the subject and it is a personal pet peeve of mine, so I want to put any concerns regarding freedom of speech to bed before we get to the real issues. The questions on this topic generally sound something like “how can the NBA punish Donald Sterling for speaking his mind? What ever happened to freedom of speech and the first amendment?” The answer is simple: the first amendment (go read the text here for yourself) protects individuals from GOVERNMENT infringement on speech. Basically, there is no such thing as a constitutional right to free speech – there is a constitutional right not to have the government infringe on your speech. Private parties in private dealings can infringe on each other’s speech all day long without running afoul of the constitution, subject of course to other laws not relevant in this case.

The NBA’s Constitution: Yes, the NBA has its own constitution, but it is not a public document, so knowledge of what it actually contains is limited. The ever-savvy media has been able to learn much of the contents of the document either from leaked sources or from inferences based on actions the NBA has taken in the past (ie. we know that the NBA constitution says the NBA can fine coaches and players because we have seen them do it without legal challenge). However, as the document itself has not been released for public consumption, the nitty gritty little details that are OH SO important for good legal analysis remain un-scrutinized by outsiders like yours truly. As a result, some portion of the following analysis is speculative, albeit based on information generally agreed on by the commentariat.

The Fine

Fines are commonly used by leagues like the NBA to punish players, coaches, and owners for poor conduct both on and off the court. Mark Cuban is the posterboy for NBA owner fines, having reportedly paid over $1.5 million in fines to date during his tenure as owner of the Dallas Mavericks. The record for the single largest fine in NBA history also belongs to Mr. Cuban, who in 2002 was required to pay $500,000 for complaining publicly about what he considered poor officiating regarding his star players.

As far as penalties go, fines generally work pretty well – they are hassle free, and the NBA constitution and by-laws clearly permit their use. The downside to fines, especially when it comes to team owners, is that even massive fines seem like a slap on the wrist. Sure, we can assume that if the NBA was willing to fine Mark Cuban half a million dollars for complaining about referees, they will be willing to fine Donald Sterling more than that for his alleged comments. But even assuming the NBA was willing to fine him, lets say, $5 million, Donald Sterling is reportedly worth almost $2 BILLION. As crazy as it is to say, to a guy like that $5 million is a rounding error. Furthermore, a $5 million fine would be 10 times more than the largest previous fine against an NBA owner – we may not know exactly what the NBA constitution says, but we can assume it has some limitations when it comes to fines, so in all likelihood it would be impossible for the NBA to fine Sterling an amount that would actually hurt his pocketbook and make fans happy.

The bottom line? If the comments are eventually attributed to Sterling the NBA will almost certainly fine him, but if a fine is all that happens people will not be pleased.

The Suspension

I feel fairly confident that if action is taken against Sterling it will include a suspension. Suspension of an owner, though rare, does happen: our own Jerry Buss was suspended in 2007 as a result of a drunk-driving conviction, and Glen Taylor of the Timberwolves was suspended for an entire season for messing around with salary caps when signing a free-agent. The public generally seems to react positively to suspensions – suspensions sound punitive, and we like the idea of people being “removed” from whatever they were doing as punishment.

However, it is fairly unclear to me what a suspension of an owner actually MEANS, practically speaking. If you are a player and you get suspended, you don’t get to play and you don’t get paid. Same thing goes if you are a coach. The problem is, owners don’t really “work” the same way – they don’t play games, and they usually don’t take a salary (or if they do it is a token amount) because their real investment is the equity value of the team. So, what would a Sterling suspension actually do? It might mean that he can’t participate in management activity (although he is literally an octogenarian, and it is debatable how involved he is in day-to-day) and it might mean that he can’t attend games (although if I was him I wouldn’t feel comfortable stepping into Staples right now without an army of bodyguards at my side anyway). When all is said and done though, he still owns the team, and at the end of the day isn’t that what being an owner is all about? A suspension might be a good solution in terms of making fans happy, but it’s hard to imagine that it will be an effective punishment for Sterling.

The Forced Sale

First, lets get a few definitional issues out of the way. A lot of people are wondering how the NBA could force Sterling to sell the Clippers – after all, if he owns the team, how can someone else force him to sell his property? The answer is that owning an NBA team isn’t like owning a computer or a cell phone – the team is not Sterling’s to do with as he will – the team is a franchise property.

To use fast food as an example, if I wanted to open a franchise of a hamburger restaurant (lets say for the purposes of avoiding any trademark issues that I wanted to open a McKobes) I would go to McKobes headquarters and sign a franchise agreement with them. Pursuant to this agreement, I would be required to do certain things (for example, I would secure a lease on a property and I would decorate it according to the guidelines of my agreement) and they would be required to do certain things (for example, they would let me use their branding and agree to sell me McKobe burger patties). If either of us broke any of the promises we made in our franchise contract, the aggrieved party could sue the breaching party. While I am sure the franchise agreement between Sterling and the NBA is much more complicated than the one I just described, the main thrust is the same: Sterling and the NBA have each made a complicated set of promises to each-other, and each side has already agreed upon certain remedies the aggrieved side can seek in the event that the other side breaks those promises.

Here is where it gets tricky. According to sources, the NBA constitution does contain a clause allowing the NBA to force an owner to sell. However, according to these sources, the clause is only triggered in very specific circumstances, limited to serious financial issues (basically, when an owner is unable to pay the team’s bills). Clearly, paying bills is not a problem for Sterling (see massive fortune, above). Without seeing the actual constitution’s language, it is impossible to know if there are any ways a creative legal mind could apply the language to the situation at hand, but based on what people in the know are saying, it seems unlikely.

This is not to say that the NBA couldn’t try and force Sterling to sell by indirect means. For example, the NBA and the other owners could do everything in their power to make the NBA an uncomfortable place for Sterling to be, such as suspending him indefinitely (see above) taking over management of the team, and directly “encouraging” him to sell. However, I think this is an unlikely scenario for two reasons. First, Sterling started his career as a trial lawyer, and reportedly LOVES litigation. If the NBA really puts pressure on Sterling to sell absent a breach of his franchise contract or the NBA constitution or by-laws, he would have a potential anti-trust case, which would be costly for the league to defend and would eat up years and millions of dollars, not to mention make headlines every few months. Plus, if Sterling actually litigates to the end and wins, any damages would be tripled because of anti-trust laws. Second, I think the owners are always worried about setting precedent when it comes to something as drastic as forcing an owner to sell a team. Sure, what Sterling is accused of is pretty egregious, but the owners will clearly be concerned that once the door to this sort of action is opened, there is no turning back.

 

To sum it all up, if the comments are Sterling’s and are not somehow taken out of context, I feel confident Sterling will be fined, I feel pretty confident he will be suspended, and I feel absolutely confident he won’t be forced (directly or indirectly) to sell. However, he is also a shrewd businessman, and I think the most likely outcome is that a third party will come in looking to buy the Clippers for a fair price and Sterling will recognize that this as a good time to get out before things get too heated (or more heated then they already are). That being said, I don’t expect Sterling to sell at a discount, so unless a buyer comes offering a good value, I think Sterling will be happy to ride this wave and dare the NBA to do anything to him that will actually hit him where it hurts.

 

*Adam Waks is a student at the New York University School of Law – he is not actually an expert in any legal field, nor is he licensed to practice law in any state as of April 29th, 2014. He is however a lifetime Laker fan, and the kind of brother willing to spend 4 hours reading sports blogs instead of studying for his law school finals.