Changes has been the theme for the Lakers this season but none is as big as what's happened with their front office. Jerry Buss may still be the owner, but his son Jim Buss makes all of the decisions now. That means he has the say whether or not the Lakers need a point guard or a new superstar center. He has the say whether or not the Lakers are a title contender.
But most importantly, his decisions will influence the future of the NBA's most important franchise in history whether he knows it or not.
A scary thought to many but a fact, nonetheless.
The stark contrast in which Jim has run the organization compared to his father has snuffed the spirit of family that made the Lakers such a unique franchise. Assembling a roster that can win mutliple titles is also part of the Lakers lore, but Jim doesn't seem to know where to begin to keep it going.
However, getting that 18th championship banner isn't the only thing on the line here. The Lakers has not only been the NBA's most influencial organization, but they're also the city of Los Angeles' iconic team. Nothing says L.A. more than the Lakers, and no sports franchise has brought more pride or entertainment to L.A. than the purple and gold. And to keep Staples Center sold out every game, the Lakers need at least one bonafide superstar.
As productive as Kobe Bryant still is now in his 16th season, the Lakers can't afford to wait until he hangs it all up. Of course, having an opportunity to snag the next franchise player to take Bryant's place doesn't knock every season. It would require some serious planning and guts to make it happen on the part of Jim as the team's executive of basketball operations.
Does Jim also have a solid plan for the future of this storied organization?
Although the Clippers have mountains to climb before they can even be on the same breath as the Lakers, the idea of them becoming the more entertaining team is another sign that the Lakers are on the verge of turning into an ordinary franchise under Jim Buss.
To his credit, Jim did allow Mitch Kupchak to trade Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to get Chris Paul. Although it was neither his nor Mitch's fault that NBA Commissioner David Stern didn't stand up against those owners who didn't want to see CP3 become a Laker, his responsibility is still to continue to find other ways to improve the roster before the start of the season or as early into the season as possible. That way, new key players would be integrated into the system sooner and without slowing down the overall progress of the team as would certainly would happen if moves are made in the middle of the season.
Seeing Odom's emotional response to his near-trade as negativity to the chemistry of the team also exemplifies his lack of feel or connection to the players. Let's not also forget that trading Lamar away without getting another player and at the knee-jerk speed in which he handled the situation clearly suggests that Jim isn't ready to run a sports franchise, let alone the Lakers.
Kupchak has been doing whatever he can to make his new boss look good while strategically already giving an excuse should the Lakers front office fail to improve the roster by next month's trade deadline by saying that the team is still good enough as is to compete for a title.
Either way, March 15th will tell us a lot about Jim Buss whether he likes it or not.