Monday afternoon, Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. Times sat down with general manager Mitch Kupchak, talking about this week's trade deadline, Pau Gasol, and the team's relationship with Magic Johnson. What has garnered the most headlines, however, are his comments about Jim Buss:
"Jim gets way too much criticism and not enough credit with the success this team has had," Kupchak said. "He is following in the footsteps of the most successful owner maybe of all time, which is hard to do. But since he's gotten more and more involved, which has been about seven or eight years, we've had some pretty good moments."
These are things Kupchak has said before, and you'd expect him to say again, particularly because he's talking about his boss. Even if he was monumentally frustrated with the dynamics of the front office and feel he's not given the freedom to shape the roster as he'd like, to his credit Kupchak would never say so. It's just not how he operates.
L.A.'s G.M. also says it's unfair to pin every decision on Jim Buss:
"It is inaccurate because there are three of us that are involved in all the basketball decisions," Kupchak said. "Dr. Buss still makes, to my knowledge, all the final decisions in the organization. He's always deferred basketball decisions at some level to his basketball people, and Jimmy is a part of the basketball people."
While I do think fans aren't always completely fair, there are plenty of totally legitimate reasons to question Jim Buss and harbor concerns. The smoke coming out of El Segundo certainly has many ready to call the fire department, even if the flames aren't actually visible yet, and I think Buss does himself a horrible disservice by so rarely putting himself in front of media and fans.
Still, the biggest reason for chewing induced cuticle destruction comes at the end of the second quote: "... Jimmy is a part of the basketball people."
That Jim Buss isn't widely respected as a personnel guy/talent evaluator isn't the point. In professional sports, it's very rarely a good idea for the same guy to sign the checks and decide who should get one. Dr. Buss has never been a passive bystander with the Lakers, weighing in on different moves and always providing the final say. But never have I ever heard him referred to as one of "the basketball people."
Had he, I suspect Dr. Buss wouldn't have led the team to such great heights. The same principle holds true for Jimmy.