Earlier in the season after Kobe Bryant had publicly called out Los Angeles Lakers management for leaving teammate Pau Gasol dangling in the trade winds for too long, Magic Johnson weighed in on the situation from afar.
Johnson, an NBA analyst for ESPN/ABC, suggested that Bryant should sit down with Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss to smooth the rift over because, Johnson said, "Jim Buss is running the team."
Buss, the son of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, addressed his relationship with Bryant in a wide-ranging sit-down interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com this week.
"Yes, we had dinner," Buss said when asked if he heeded Johnson's advice to connect with Bryant. "We talk all the time now. What it is is, be it my fault, I should communicate more with the players in a certain way. I've always felt that when it comes to (player movement) decisions that it changes every 10 minutes when it's actually going to happen. To inform a player or ask a player's opinion about this guy or that guy, it would bore them to death and drive them crazy. So, I was under the impression that it was better to wait until the very last moment and then talk to him."
Buss also said that, in retrospect, he would have reached out to Bryant during the Lakers' coaching search this past summer when the team hired Mike Brown to replace Phil Jackson.
Despite the hiccups in communication in the past, Buss maintained that he and Bryant have established an understanding.
"Kobe is cool about it," Buss said. "(Bryant) said, 'Just let me know.' Keep-me-in-the-loop kind of thing. And I said, 'OK, I have no problem with that.'"
Buss also talked to ESPNLosAngeles.com about his personal relationship, or lack thereof, with Jackson. Jackson dates Jim Buss' sister, Lakers executive vice president of business operations Jeanie Buss.
At Jackson's exit interview with the media last May, his last public remarks before retiring from the Lakers, the Hall of Fame coach said, "I haven't spoken to Jimmy Buss this year." Jackson later said in the exit interview that "there's really not a relationship" between him and the Lakers' management.
"My response to that is, my job is if there is a problem and Phil has a problem with a player or another coach or this or that then I step in and we have meetings," Buss said. "So, for me not to see him means that there were no problems, and that's the way that I conduct myself. I don't know why he would say that he didn't see me, because we saw each other, let me count them ... seven times ... 15 times. ... You don't stop in the hall and say, 'Let's talk so that we can say that we talked.'
"He used to have lunches (in the Lakers' meeting room) and I'd be in there having a lunch. I'm not sure why he said that. He's very cryptic in his way of doing things, so maybe he just didn't want to act like we have this tight relationship. You know, I don't socialize with him unless my sister is there and that kind of thing. It's not like we go to the movies together. But no, I have no problems with Phil Jackson. I have a relationship that to me, it's a relationship. He might not look at it that way."