The Ball is in our Court

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Well, it happened. With the number two pick in the NBA draft, The Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball. I knew it was going to happen, yet the dread still waved over me. Right now I should be celebrating. My beloved Lakers took a kid who has put up some crazy numbers, and has drawn comparisons to Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd. I should be over the moon, but I am not. Why am I pouting? Because of our new official ties to his father: LaVar Ball.

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First, let me be clear and establish that Lonzo has been the polar opposite of his father in public. He seems a bit reserved, shy, and respectful. This is a case of the son paying for the father’s sins. Now, you may think that I am being unfair to Lonzo. After all, don’t we all have relatives who say crazy things? I know my family has staged multiple interventions for a certain family member regarding her social media postings. However, Lonzo has confirmed that his dad speaks for him and he loves it. That is my problem. If LaVar was just some crazy parent who Lonzo denounced, then no one would give him that much attention. Instead, Lonzo has fed the beast and turned him into this media crazed, power hungry, sexist creature. Remind you of anyone else in our news right now?

Once he was drafted, LaVar immediately put on a Big Baller Brand hat in all Lakers colors. It actually made me feel nauseous. My first thought, was that I hope the Lakers have a patent on those exact colors and can sue LaVar for using it. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who noticed the hat. After he was drafted these were the trending topics on Twitter:

Twitter_Trends

Can you think of another draft pick whose father was discussed this much? I sure can’t. They have 3 trending topics on Twitter! Shaq’s own son is a superstar in the making, but you barely hear Shaq discuss it. He has very much taken a back seat on his son’s success. Instead, LaVar has become the ultimate leech taking full advantage of the Lakers and their brand. I have never been so concerned for the Lakers brand in my life. This guy is already diluting it with his gross Big Baller Brand.

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What makes me even angrier, is knowing that this is not the end, but rather the beginning. LaVar is obviously going to pitch his family to all the networks for their very own reality show. Can’t you imagine their show following the Kardashians? I would like to remind all our fans, that the last Laker to appear on a reality show ended up overdosing in a whore house. Draw your own conclusions.

Magic and company obviously know who they are getting with Lonzo and his father. Lordy I hope they are able to control them, because now they belong to us.

Now that Lonzo has joined the Lakers, it means he will be under extreme scrutiny from me and the rest of the fans. Unlike most draft picks though, he has now put a bullseye on his back. He created his own shoe line before he was even drafted and had the audacity to charge $500 for them. Lonzo hasn’t done anything yet.

As I was getting ready to hit the publish button, I got a B/R alert that LaVar Ball just ran his mouth again and promised that the Lakers will make the playoffs this year. His dad has done a lot of shit talking, now Lonzo better deliver. If he can’t, then he will be feeling more heat than the residents of Arizona. Just because we drafted him, doesn’t mean he will be a Laker for life, just go ask D’Angelo Russell. This is the first time I have looked at one of our draft picks with actual animosity, so he better prove me wrong. Therefore, I would like to conclude with a message to Lonzo: “Welcome to LA.”

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.

Ding Dong Jimmy’s Gone

magic-johnson-calls-out-jim-buss-just-say-you-made-mistakes-2015True LakHer fans will notice that I have somewhat recycled my blog post title, but it was too fitting not to reuse. After years of torture, Jeanie finally fired her brother and Mitch. When I wrote my blog earlier this month, I thought we would have to wait until this summer to see this moment. However, Jeanie realized we needed new blood to get us through the trade deadline. Kudos to her.

My jubilation is mostly focused on Jimmy, but Mitch has proven to have questionable judgment so I am glad he is gone too. The Lakers needed a clean slate with new management. This opinion was only amplified after Bleacher Report released this scathing article about Jim and Mitch. This article outlined all their questionable decisions, but the worst one by far was the Chris Paul trade. It was revealed that we could have traded Andrew Bynum for Chris Paul without Stern vetoing the trade. However, Jim Buss refused because of his obsession with Bynum. I didn’t think I could hate Jim more, until I read that piece.

Twenty four hours after this article was released, and Jeanie finaly made the right decision, even if it took her “too long.” Now our legendary Magic Johnson will replace Jim Buss (talk about twisting the knife). I am going to start off by being cautiously optimistic and also skeptical. I am not sure if Magic can flourish in this role. Ex-players have struggled in this role (Jerry West excluded). While putting this post together, he made is first trade with the Houston Rockets. They got Lou Williams, and we got Corey Brewer and a first round draft pick. My initial reaction wasn’t positive, but I will wait until after the trade deadline on Thursday. It appears that Magic wants to play the draft game and stockpile those assets, but I want to see the strategy behind this move before I commit to a position. Magic sold Jeanie on a vision and plan, something that Mitch and Jim clearly lacked, so I want to watch this play out over the next couple of days.

Also, while putting this blog together it appears that the Lakers are going to hire Rob Pelinka as the new GM. He is a famous agent for athletes, and represents our very own Kobe Bryant. I have mixed feelings about this move. On the one hand he has relationships with players all over the league. Additionally, he appears to have a high basketball IQ and business mind. These are key factors in assembling and recruiting a team. He has been on the other end of these trades for players before, so he knows a different angle. The biggest con for him is his lack of front office experience. He is an agent, not an exec. I see this being either a completely brilliant move, or one that will blow up in our faces. Again, I am choosing to be cautiously optimistic.

Until Thursday, I am choosing to focus on my joy. We are turning the page on this very dark chapter in Lakers history. We will not fix this team overnight, but Jeanie has finally untethered the Lakers from her incompetent brother. Now she can run this team the way she wants without worrying about his feelings. If Magic and Rob turn out to be busts, I do not think it will take her this long to fire them, or for me to criticize them.

Return of the Magic

Time is ticking, and Jim Buss should be worried. Rumors starting swirling after Magic Johnson met with Jeanie Buss on January 17th about the nature of their meeting. Reports came out that Jeanie was looking to Magic for advice on the direction on the Lakers. Fast forward 3 weeks later, and Magic is now an official adviser for the Lakers.

Magic has been one of the most outspoken critics of Jim Buss (present company included), so fans like me are interpreting this move as the beginning of the end for Jimmy. His self-imposed deadline is coming up, and I have always been curious to see if Jeanie would have the stones to follow through with it. Jim has insisted he has one more year left, but she disagrees. Bringing in Magic shows that Jeanie recognizes that changes need to be made, so why not start by bringing in one of the greatest (and most popular) Lakers in history.

We can argue all day long about who is the greatest Laker in history, but no one questions who is the most beloved. Magic has always loved the spotlight whereas Kobe and Kareem have attracted plenty of negative press and controversy over the years.

The past couple of summers have been miserable for attracting free agents. It would be easy to simply blame our poor roster, but free agents like LaMarcus Aldridge have spoken out about the poor presentations. It is no secret that players do not like Jim Buss, and that Mitch Kupchak is a bit socially awkward, whereas Magic oozes charisma while also being one of the most respected players in history. If he is running the show, the Lakers will suddenly regain some of their “Showtime” allure.

Magic says we are one star away from competing with Golden State or San Antonio (per his Instagram). I have to disagree, since they have multiple stars, and last I checked we had 0. Also we have the third worst record in the league, so that will take more than just 1 Carmelo Anthony to fix. For the record, I think we have some great building blocks. I love our young rookies, and they have shown some great promise. However, they are going through some serious growing pains, and we need more veterans to help shape them. If Magic thinks we can become a top team with just 1 star, then I look forward to seeing what he can do this summer. I will always have the utmost respect for Magic (as a player), but now that he is stepping into the role, I vow to hold him accountable like I do for Jim and Mitch. Buckle in LakHer fans, it is about to get exciting!

Let’s Get Ready for the New Season

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My dad and I at the game last year- April 3, 2016

After a 6 month long hiatus it is time for the Lakers to suit up for a new season! I am very excited to start watching them play again. Before I preview the new season, I must look back at our last game:

Kobe’s Last Game

At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog about it. I sat on the couch with tears streaming down my face as I watched Kobe put up 60 points for the last time. I went through all the stages of grief watching that game.

He single handedly won that match. He played 1 on 5, just like he did back in the mid 2000’s. It was pure domination, so I went through the denial phase. I began to think that maybe he didn’t need to retire, and that he still had it in him. Then I would see him panting on the bench. He was putting on a show, but he could barely breathe. It was time for him to walk away. Now I was angry, because I looked around at the players surrounding him and could not imagine any of them carrying this team the way he has. He has played this game almost my entire life. I cannot remember a time when Kobe didn’t suit up in the purple and gold. How could anyone else be the face of my team? Then I started think about the Lakers’ history. Before Kobe there was Magic, and before Magic there was Jerry, so surely there is someone out there that the Lakers will scoop up and turn into a superstar right? Then depression kicked in when I started to think about who was running this team. Jerry Buss wasn’t going to work with Jerry West to draft Magic, and then convince him into staying with LA instead of bolting for Detroit. Instead, all we have is the incompetent son, and a GM who’s best trade to date was Jerry West’ doing. I sat there, watching the game, and thinking about all of this before I finally came to acceptance. I realize that it might take years, before the Lakers are playing at a championship level, but we will eventually get there. The team wasn’t always owned by Jerry Buss, and we had great trades made by GM’s other than Jerry West. Eventually, the Buss kids will figure out how to run this team, or (more likely) will hand over the reins to someone who can.

It is still hard for me to think about Kobe being retired. When Shaq was traded, and they broke up the original championship team, I was very angry. However, they eventually brought in Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom which lead to a new era. Kobe has always been the constant, but I know it is time to look toward the new talent to carry the torch.

Looking Ahead

Yesterday we had some big news. Yi Jianlian asked to be released from the Lakers, and they obliged. I was disappointed that we signed him in the first place. If you do not know who I am talking about, he was the star on the Chinese team during the Olympics this summer. I didn’t want him on the Lakers because I think he lacks the work ethic. Apparently Yao Ming really wanted him to be his mentee, but Jianlian was unwilling to put in the work. I can happily say good riddance. Now let’s take a look at the rest of the players on this finalized roster.

D’Angelo Russell may have butted heads with Byron Scott, but he appears to love Luke Walton. Thus far, the players are responding to him well, so that is a good thing. Russell did seem to improve over the summer, but he still has a lot of work to do. The same goes for Julius Randall and Brandon Ingram. We have a very young team, so there are going to be growing pains. I know fans are really excited that the Lakers did well in the pre-season, but please remember that those games are not indicative of how a team will play in the regular season. Most teams only play their stars for a few minutes. Those games are for the rookies and new acquisitions.

Remember back in 2012 when the Lakers went 0-8 in the preseason? That was the summer when we got Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Fans couldn’t believe it, but I didn’t think much of it. People look back on that season and say it was terrible, and by Lakers standards it was. However, we made the playoffs in a competitive western conference. Granted, with that talent we should have done better, but Steve Nash went down in the beginning of the season, Kobe tore his Achilles, and then Dwight Howard was forced to lead the team while still coming back from a major back injury. All things considered, I think we did pretty damn good.

So, where does that leave us? Pretty much where we have been the last couple of seasons. I anticipate our young players improving substantially, but I still see us as a below .500 team, barring a major trade. Luke Walton is now our coach and leader, but this is going to take years, so let’s buckle in and play the long game. In the meantime, let’s enjoy our young, versatile, and athletic youngsters playing some Warrior style ball (with a ton of turnovers).

It’s Time to Waive Nick Young

NickYoungI know there have been a lot of developments I haven’t covered in the last two months. I need to discuss Kobe’s last game, the draft, and free agency. I promise that those blogs are coming, but first I need to discuss the trending topic of the day: Nick Young almost blowing his hand off.

For my fans who didn’t see the story on social media, please see the link below (I apologize in advance for linking TMZ to my blog):

http://www.tmz.com/2016/07/05/nick-young-firework-explodes-in-hand-video/

Now that we are all caught up on Nick Young’s latest stupidity, I can say without any hesitation that it is time to waive him. Ideally we would trade him, but no team will take him with this current contract.

I understand that Nick is reeling from his break up with Iggy Azalea, but like I have said in my previous post discussing his infidelities, I still do not give a damn about his personal life. I only care about his contributions to the team, and if he blew off his hand I think it is safe to say that he wouldn’t be much help.

I believed that Nick Young would be traded or waived after the “SnapChat Scandal,” and this latest incident has simply put the nail in the coffin.

Managing our Expectations

Walton-600x400I am a little late to the party on this post. For that I am extremely sorry Teri and Christy. Now that my apologies are out of the way, why don’t I jump right in on the discussion of the Lakers’ new hire?

First off, I want to discuss the firing of Byron Scott. I have thought a lot about it, and I have decided it was a good idea. Now, I do think he did almost everything he could do to win games. We had a lousy team, and you cannot win without talent. However, I feel that he did a bad job working with our rookies. He openly criticized them to reporters, and constantly benched them for long stretches. Overall, I think he failed them. I understand that he felt they needed to earn playing time, but he didn’t need to undermine them in the press. When D’Angelo Russell had his scandal with Nick Young, Scott said he was most disappointed that they were unable to keep this in house. I wish Scott could have listened to his own criticism. I believe he was fired because the rookies had lost all faith in him, so the Lakers needed to make a change. Now it is time to analyze that change.

The Lakers went ahead and hired Luke Walton right away without even interviewing anyone else. This move was not surprising. For months I have expected this to happen. Luke received a lot of praise for how he coached the Warriors, and he played for the Lakers under Phil Jackson. This hire seemed inevitable. However, I think it is really important that we manage our expectations.

We are getting Luke Walton, not Steph Curry. While I greatly admire Luke Walton and believe that he will make a great coach one day, we need to understand the situation. Luke was coaching a team that just came off of winning a championship and was fighting to repeat and break a record. He was not coaching a team full of rookies. Golden State was great under Steve Kerr, and they remained great under Luke Walton. I do not think he had too much to do with their success. He had the presence of mind to simply stay out of their way.

When Luke comes to L.A. he will be inheriting one of the worst teams in the NBA. Kobe has just retired and there is no one currently there to fill that void (another blog on that to come later). Barring Kevin Durant coming to the Lakers, (which seems extremely unlikely) we are going to be in an even worse position come October than we were last season.

I will remain hopeful that we will get the top pick, and that Mitch can pull of some free agency/trade miracles for us, but in the meantime I must give the hard truths to my readers. The hard truth is that Luke Walton is not our savior, he is merely a building block.

Luke wants to run the Lakers on a similar style to the Warriors. Since our roster is filled with young and athletic players, this seems like a good idea. However, we must remember that instead of Steph Curry setting up the plays, we will have Russell, and instead of Klay Thompson jacking up threes, we will have Jordan Clarkson. Needless to say, our current roster can’t hang with the champs.