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Thursday, February 3, 2011
Jerry Buss visits Lakers practice

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- If the wheels are truly falling off the Lakers' season you wouldn't know it by the calm of the owner of the franchise who is sitting in the driver's seat.

Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss attended the team's Thursday shootaround in preparation for the game against the West-leading San Antonio Spurs and was a picture of calm amidst the scrutiny that recently arose after Los Angeles lost four out of seven games.

"I'm kind of used to up and down," Buss said. "We've had a lot of up-and-down seasons that turned out pretty up and a few that have turned down. I'm not surprised. Nothing's different, nothing's different."

Buss took control of the Lakers in 1979 and has guided them to 10 championships in 31 seasons since then.

Speaking at a charity poker tournament in August, Buss told reporters, "I feel there's a good chance this could be the best team we've ever had."

His words sounded prophetic after the Lakers' 8-0 start, but since then the Lakers have slipped with three- and four-game losing streaks as well as their recent slump that left Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak considering making a trade.

Despite the Lakers' 1-5 record against the best teams in the league (San Antonio, Boston, Miami, Dallas, Chicago), Buss remains optimistic about his team's three-peat chances.

"I'm always hopeful," Buss said. "Even when we didn't make the playoffs, I thought we'd win the championship."

Buss granted a brief interview with reporters before getting up to go speak to members of the Lakers' bench.

The owner, who turned 77 last week, observed the shootaround from the sideline and opted to have individual conversations with various players from Ron Artest to Lamar Odom, rather than addressing the team as a whole.

"You look good!" Odom told Buss.

Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said Buss's presence at the practice facility has become a rare occurrence.

"He does this once every year or two," Jackson said. "He used to come to a lot more practices than he has the last couple years. But he used to do this in the morning, he'd come to practice. He lives just a couple minutes away."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.