Lakers Owner Jerry Buss: What, Me Worry About Heat? No Way
So says the team's owner, Dr. Jerry Buss.
"Hardly," Buss told FanHouse when asked if the teaming of James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh had him clutching his latest championship trophy in fear. "I didn't pay much attention to (Thursday's announcement from James). I was curious to see where he went, and once I found that out that was that."
Buss' sentiment was shared by many in the NBA's first day of summer league action, where there was plenty of intrigue about what the three stars could accomplish together but also skepticism because of their nonexistent supporting cast. Miami is reportedly closer to fixing that problem, though, as deals for sharpshooter Mike Miller and forward Udonis Haslem appear to be in the works.
Still, the Lakers -- as Buss made clear, are hardly giving the early nod to the Heat in the Eastern Conference race.
"Somebody in the East will come out, and our job is to beat them, whoever it is," he said. "There are a lot of good teams over there. I don't automatically hand them the title. I think Orlando is very good. I think Chicago is going to be better. Boston, certainly, is tough. We know about that. So let's wait until things get going."
Buss has plenty of his own roster work to do, although he said he was "very, very pleased" when coach Phil Jackson announced recently that he would return for next season. While a contract with Jackson has not been finalized, Buss said it's "pretty well locked up" and he expects it to be done "soon." He also refuted the widely-held notion that Jackson's pay -- specifically, how significant of a pay cut he would be asked to take -- was a significant factor in his decision to come back.
"I always figured Phil would come back," Buss said. "I don't think (money) was ever a factor. It was strictly a question of whether he felt capable from a physical point of view to coach for another year. I think he realized that he's quite healthy and capable and we look forward to it."
If there was a recent Cleveland story Buss did pay significant attention to, it was the Cavaliers coaching search. His good friend, and former Laker, Byron Scott took the job before James left, beating out Lakers assistant Brian Shaw. Had Jackson retired, Scott and Shaw would have been strong candidates to replace him.
"I think (Scott is) going to be a good coach, with or without LeBron," Buss said. "I think (the Cavaliers) made the right choice. It'll be interesting to see how he adjusts the roster. (James leaving) is quite a shock to him, I'm sure, but we'll just have to wait and see."
On the Lakers' personnel front, they recently added point guard Steve Blake (four years, $16 million) and continue to work toward bringing guard Derek Fisher back as well. While Fisher is reportedly scheduled to meet with Miami on Saturday, Buss is confident he will remain a Laker.
"We're working on Fisher now and I think we'll probably have him back in the fold soon," Buss said.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was optimistic as well.
"I just continue to have a dialogue with (Fisher's) representative," he said. "Both sides are motivated, so we think it will work out. We hope so."