Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 3/23/12
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Some people might think of Jim Buss as the Howard Hughes of the Lakers. Hes been referred to as reclusive, quiet and media shy perhaps not the best traits for someone who will eventually be the man in charge of one of professional sports most valuable franchises. But Buss, son of Lakers owner Jerry Buss and executive vice president of the team, is speaking up. And hes got a few things he wants to say. Like these: He expects Kobe Bryant to be a Laker for life. Trading Lamar Odom was a personally difficult decision for him, but one that had to be made. He liked Jeremy Lin enough to want to bring him to training camp as a rookie before the Golden State Warriors signed him. And he doesnt have the final say on player moves, despite what anyone thinks. I cant make a trade without Mitch (Kupchak, general manager) or my dad, Buss told Mason and Ireland during an hour-long interview on ESPN LA radio on Friday. Its just not the way it is. Buss said he intends to increase his public profile, at least to help fans understand him and his role in the front office. But he also knows it might not change peoples opinion of him. I should have been out there before, meet and greet, whatever it is, he said. Thats the problem Ive had to face (that) comes with the territory, is peoples opinions. But if they dont know you, then I think it gives them more leeway to attack me. If they dont like the decisions I make, thats just an opinion. Thats OK with me. If theres a perception that Bryant and Buss dont get along or that their relationship is nonexistent, its false, Buss insisted. Hes a great guy to be around, Buss said. We have a great relationship. I talk to him all the time. Hes by far, in LA, one of the best players to ever play the game. And Ive got a lot of respect for him. Asked if he would ever consider trading Bryant before his contract expires in order to free cap space and improve the team for the future, Buss laughed. No, he answered. You know, I think about a lot of things to improve this team, to figure out how to manage the finances of it. One thing I havent thought of is Kobe being somewhere else. I dont know why that question has ever come up. Id like to squish that one. The Lakers, however, did trade Derek Fisher and Odom, both of whom had lengthy histories with the team. Both transactions were emotional for players and front office. Fisher, who won five NBA championship rings with the team, was traded to acquire point guard Ramon Sessions. I think hes playing fantastic, Buss said of Sessions. This is what we were hoping for. But losing two established veterans and fan favorites was hardly routine for Buss. These decisions have to be made on a business level, he said. Its nothing personal against Derek Fisher. I respect the man, I love the man. But these things have to be done. Talking to Mitch, talking to my dad, and us going over what situation were going to be in after making a Sessions trade or somebody else, we would have to move Derek Fisher. We felt that was good for him, in our mind, to get playing time on another team. Of Odom, Buss said: Thats a personal decision that had to be made because we were privy to sitting with him and talking to him. It was our opinion that he wanted the trade and he was serious about it. We didnt think there was a chance to repair it, and an opportunity came up fairly quickly. It hurts me, but its something we had to do. If we dragged it out and tried to repair it, Im not sure if that wouldve worked out. Buss also offered a vote of confidence for coach Mike Brown, who struggled in taking over for Phil Jackson but now has the Lakers in first place in the Pacific Division. I think hes done a fantastic job, Buss said. I dont put any kind of grade on it or anything like that. I think hes exceeded what I thought was going to happen in the first year on a shortened season and taking over for a legend. Him getting used to the players, a new system, hes way ahead of the game. Buss also said he liked Lin coming out of Harvard, but the Lakers believed he would go undrafted and planned to bring him into camp. Lin bounced around but is now the New York Knicks starting point guard. I didnt think he was going to turn out to be the player he is now, but I did like him, Buss said. I liked him as a backup point guard. We were about to draft him. We decided he wasnt going to be drafted and that we would get him in training camp. Basically, Golden State felt he would be a marketing tool for them and offered him a better deal. We gave him basically a half years salary and Golden State offered the whole thing. Despite their difficult start and ongoing problems winning on the road, Buss said he believes the Lakers are the team to beat in the Western Conference. I just recently spoke to Kobe, and he believes in this team, Buss said. I believe in this team. I think were going to get better and better and better. With the coach, hes going to understand the players (and) theyre going to understand him. I think were watching a learning process. Were 13 games above .500 -- thats a great sign. Were in first place in the division and still learning. The formula is pointing toward a deep run in the playoffs.
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