Jim Buss' run as head of the Lakers' basketball operations has been a worst-case scenario since his father, the legendary Jerry Buss, passed away several years ago. Even the good moves he's made have backfired, like trading for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. His coaching hires have been disastrous, his free agency signings ineffectual, and worst of all, he's failed to sign any major stars in his time to try and facilitate the kind of instant rebuild that the franchise is used to.
What's worse, there doesn't appear to be any sign that Buss has learned from his past failures with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and even LaMarcus Aldridge. In a wide-ranging and damning piece from Bleacher Report detailing the state of discontent within the Buss family, Kevin Ding reports that Buss was "telling people" of a fairly insane plan, which has already turned south, that included signing both of the Thunder's big stars.
So Jim told people that Carmelo Anthony was coming the next summer. He told people that Howard was staying the previous year.
He told people as soon as the Lakers' recent season was winding down that Kevin Durant was coming this summer...with Russell Westbrook the next.
This, of course, is totally insane if true. It's already been reported that the Lakers won't even be getting a meeting with Durant. The team has been a disaster the past five seasons, and are entirely built around young players that a veteran star like Durant would not want to babysit. There continues to be this idea that by being A) the Lakers with their historic legacy of success and B) in L.A., that it will be enough to draw stars without actually having a plan. Aldridge's initial meeting was so bad last year that he granted them a second meeting just to try and improve upon their first before signing with the Spurs.
The Suns were a more likely destination for the top free agent last year than the Lakers were. Think about that.
That's not to rule out the possibility of such a move happening in the future. It's been whispered that Westbrook, in particular, would have an interest in returning to California where he's from and taking the reins. If Durant were to leave for Golden State, for instance, there's a good chance Westbrook leaves the next year and the Lakers would be attractive. But those moves should be made with kind of a "If this happens, great" approach, and not "This is our plan, because we're the Lakers."
All of this is summed up in the phrase "Lakers exceptionalism," which we've talked about for three years and once again, it's over. It's gone. It can be rebuilt, but the Lakers as an organization need to understand that the only way for them to get back to where they want to go is for either a Black Swan event like Westbrook deciding to save the franchise or the young core they've built (and they've done a great job in that regard) to become a contending core. They cannot snap their fingers and make stars appear in a puff of smoke.
The landscape has changed. The market has changed. The franchise has changed. And if Jim Buss doesn't realize that and start adjusting whatever plans they've made with consideration of that, his job title is going to change as well.
Buss' sister Jeanie has said that if the team does not make significant progress (which is downgraded from a goal of being a second-round team with championship aspirations by the way) by the end of next season, she'll look to replace her brother as head of the team. There's widespread speculation that could mean Phil Jackson leaving the Knicks to join his betrothed back with the team he won five championships with.