Kobe, Magic call out Lakers' brass
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- With the 2013-14 season officially in the rearview window for Kobe Bryant after Wednesday's announcement that his left knee injury will keep him out of the final 18 games, the veteran guard took aim at the Lakers' front office in regards to the team's future.
"I think we have to start at the top in terms of the culture of our team," Bryant said. "What kind of culture do we want to have? What kind of system do we want to have? How do we want to play? It starts there and from there, you can start building out your team accordingly."
When asked to clarify what "the top" meant, Bryant pointed to executive vice president, Jim Buss, and his sister, Lakers president, Jeanie Buss. They assumed joint control of the franchise, along with their four other siblings, when longtime Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss died last February.
"You got to start with Jim," Bryant said. "You got to start with Jim and Jeanie and how that relationship plays out. It starts there and having a clear direction and clear authority. And then it goes down to the coaching staff and what Mike (D'Antoni) is going to do, what they're going to do with Mike and it goes from there. It's got to start at the top."
D'Antoni has one year remaining on his contract with the team, set to pay him $4 million, but has gone just 62-74 (.456) since joining the team last November, with a slew of injuries sabotaging the Lakers' roster in that time.
When there is talk of Jeanie Buss, her fiancé, Phil Jackson, is never too far behind. Bryant was also asked about the possibility of Jackson joining the New York Knicks in a front office capacity, which ESPN's Chris Broussard reported will happen by the end of the week.
"You know how I feel about Phil," said Bryant, who won all five of his championships with Jackson as the coach. "I have so much admiration for him and respect and I have a great relationship with him. Personally, it would be hard for me to understand that happening twice. It would be tough. I don't really get it."
By "that" Bryant was referring to the Lakers passing over Jackson for a job after he interviewed for L.A.'s coaching vacancy after Mike Brown was fired last November and the team went with D'Antoni instead.
Magic Johnson also had strong things to say about Jackson on Wednesday in a series of tweets:
I love Jim & Jeanie Buss, but we need Phil Jackson to be the face of our great organization, the Los Angeles Lakers.- Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) March 12, 2014
Kobe Bryant is the face of the Lakers' team. Who is the face of the Lakers' organization?- Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) March 12, 2014
In signing Phil Jackson Owner Jim Dolan & Steve Mills are saying to the Knicks fans, they're ready to win now!- Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) March 12, 2014
Johnson broke a self-appointed gag order on commenting on the Lakers after tweeting in late January:
Laker Nation: I'm going to stop complaining. I'm going to support and encourage Jim Buss and Coach D'Antoni because I love the Lakers!- Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 31, 2014
Bryant was even more scathing than Johnson when asked about the current state of the Lakers, who at 22-42 (.344) are tied for last place in the Western Conference.
"How can I be satisfied with it? We're like 100 games under .500," Bryant said. "I can't be satisfied with that at all. This is not what we stand for. This is not what we play for. A lot of times it's hard to understand that message if you're not a diehard Laker fan. It's hard to really understand where we're coming from and what we're accustomed to, which is playing for championships and everything else is a complete failure. That's just how it is. That's how it was explained to me by Jerry (West) and all the other great Lakers who have played here and that's how I grew up thinking. So that's just how it is."
In perhaps his most direct criticism of the Lakers' organization since the summer of 2007 when he threatened he would rather "go play on Pluto" than suit up in purple and gold again, Bryant said he has "not one lick" of patience for the Lakers' management team of Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak to rebuild the team into a contender.
"Oh yeah, let's just play next year and let's just suck again," Bryant said, sarcastically. "No. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It's my job to go out there on the court and perform. No excuses for it. Right? You got to get things done. It's the same thing with the front office. The same expectations they have of me when I perform on the court is the same expectations I have for them up there. You got to be able to figure out a way to do both."
The Lakers have only four players under contract for next season -- Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Nick Young (although Young's is a player option) -- and will have upwards of $25 million in cap space to spend on the open market.
Bryant said that he would also like to be looped in more often by the Lakers' powers that be.
"I just want to get a phone call before somebody gets traded," Bryant said, assumingly referring to the Steve Blake deal that he previously spoke out about on Twitter. "Let's start there first."