Anthony on LA: Buss must reconsider how Lakers are run

I’m back. 

Those are the words Michael Jordan released in a fax when he returned to basketball in 1995. And those are the words I release today. 

I am back. 

OK, back from what exactly you may ask? I was gone for basically a month. Jordan was gone for two years. The sports section didn’t even get a chance to move on from my columns and we’re back like we never left. 

This short break gave me enough time to gather my thoughts on what has become of the Los Angeles Lakers. Look, I get it — it’s the middle of the NBA Playoffs, and no one cares about the Lakers anymore. The Phoenix Suns just got whooped in Game 7 on Sunday, and I could spend time on that.

But, I, Anthony Gharib, the author of “Anthony on LA,” feel passionate about the debacle that has become of the Lakers. Therefore, this is what we will be discussing today since it, again, is I who writes this column. 

The Lakers finished the season with a 33-49 record, one game outside of the NBA Play-in Tournament. It was the Lakers’ lowest win total since the 2016-17 season when Jordan Clarkson led the team in scoring. There was no LeBron James, no Anthony Davis and, surely, no Russell Westbrook. 

The season was beyond disappointing in part because of the latter player. Westbrook’s acquisition was a Hollywood acquisition but never worked out on the big screen. Much of the blame must be put on owner Jeanie Buss and General Manager Rob Pelinka.

The deal wasn’t a Frank Vogel problem, the coach who was fired at the end of the 2022 season after winning a championship in 2020. 

The people around Buss are the problem.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Buss confirmed long rumors that former Lakers Magic Johnson, Phil Jackson and Kurt Rambis are providing input in decision- making. 

Magic and Rambis have had a plethora of roles with the Lakers. Of course, both were part of the showtime Lakers in the 1980s. Magic coached the Lakers for the final 16 games in the 1994 season. He then returned in 2017 as President of Basketball Operations — a quite successful tenure since he spearheaded the campaign for signing LeBron. However, he resigned in dramatic fashion at the end of the 2019 season before going on ESPN to expose the “backstabbing” in the Lakers organization. 

Rambis joined the Lakers as an assistant coach in the 1996 season until leaving in 2009, only to return for one season in 2013. He then moved away to join Jackson when the Zen Master became President of Basketball Operations of the New York Knicks in 2014. That’s when it got fun.

I won’t get into too much detail, but the Knicks never finished a season with more than 32 wins in the three seasons Jackson was there. He was dismissed in 2017. 

So, these three men are now giving input to owner Jeanie Buss. This would be a great idea — if the year was 2002. 

Rambis in particular has been toxic. In January, it was reported that not only is Rambis sitting in on coach’s meetings, but said all the coaches were at risk of being fired. Jackson is reportedly interested in trading LeBron and keeping Westbrook instead. 

Look, I really don’t need to say much about that. Anyone who thinks keeping Westbrook on this Lakers team will work is flat-out wrong. 

Magic isn’t a horrible person to relay information from, but Buss must not allow Rambis and Jackson to have as big a role as they do now. 

Both were part of the immense downfall of the Knicks that the team is still recovering from. Both have the credentials, maybe not Rambis, to make important decisions but simply cannot. Both are way past their prime as basketball savants. 

The game has evolved tremendously since the last time Jackson or Rambis were head coaches. 

Buss defended Rambis in the interview with the L.A. Times.

“I want to remind people, he’s been involved in the NBA for close to 40 years, that he has been a part of championship teams both as a player and assistant coach, he is someone I admire for his basketball knowledge,” Buss said.

Cool. But if you can’t adapt to the game’s evolution, Rambis’ credentials mean as much as mine. Buss must be smart about who she keeps around her. 

Anthony Gharib is a senior writing about all things Los Angeles sports. His column, “Anthony on LA,” typically ran every other Monday.