L.A. Lakers: How the Team of Buss and West Went South

The Lakers, in less than a decade, have gone from World's Greatest Franchise to The Greasy Spoon.

The Lakers in their glory-days best were distinguished and defined by the two Jerrys: Buss and West.

Buss was the whip-smart playboy owner who played high-stakes poker against the GFL (Go Fish League).

West was the fidgety, neurotic face of the franchise who used his deepest, darkest childhood traumas and insecurities to fuel a country-hick legend out of the gravel of West Virginia.

West was an all-time Logo silhouette but had an even better eye for talent procurement that he coupled with manic insanity to put championship pieces together.

As the Lakers won titles West brooded, oftentimes unable to watch, from the catacombs of the Forum and Staples Center.

The Buss and West combo had a chemistry that started out as Magic but was also, potentially, highly combustible.

Buss knew what he was mixing because, apart from eyeing pretty young ladies and stealing the Lakers for a song, he also had a PhD in chemistry.

These days, from what I can gather and read, important decisions are being influenced by Linda Rambis.

And people wonder why the Lakers can’t cross the contract “ts” on Tyronn Lue?

Being a sportswriter, for a major newspaper, in the town you grew up in, is a mostly fantastic thing--but not always easy.

I navigated around my childhood Rams passion enough to cover them, somewhat fairly and dispassionately, for several years.

The Angels were the baseball team of my youth and I handled my fair share of deadline writes as a young scrub for the Fullerton Tribune and L.A. Times.

Frankly, though, the Angels meant much, much less to me after they let Nolan Ryan go after 1979.

Ah, but the Lakers were a hard habit to shake for the simple reason I was never allowed to get professionally close.

I covered only a handful of games over the decades and that made it more difficult to detach myself from the franchise I lived and died with during the 1960s and 1970s.

I distinctly remember, as a kid, dribbling a basketball to the store because Jerry West did that to become a better ball-handler.

Fast forward to the late 1990s: My friend and LAT colleague, Tim Kawakami, who covered the Shaq-Kobe teams, would call to tell me of his latest run-in with GM Jerry West.

Tim would write something Jerry didn’t like (almost everything) and Jerry would call in an expletive-filled rage.

I would hold the phone away from my ear and say “Tim don’t tell me this! I don’t want to hear this about Jerry West!”

West was the one childhood hero I wanted to keep in a box, tucked in my tree-house fort, and I mostly have.

So maybe that’s why the current state of the Lakers upsets me more than it should.

The daily stories of Laker dysfunction are truly disgusting and almost impossible to comprehend.

Only a decade ago, the Lakers were the most powerful and popular franchise on Earth in a town where the Clippers were owned by a racist slumlord.

Now it’s flip-flopped to the point the Clippers are on solid ground, with a billionaire owner willing to defer to a team of front office experts that now includes…Jerry West.

This is a perfect episode for Twilight Zone 2019.

Watching the Lakers die is like watching the fall of Rome in a Twitter stream, without an invasion of sacking Visigoths.

The Lakers are a treasonous family tale of infidelity, irresponsibility and poison-pill politics.

There are parallels to the Lakers and fall of the Los Angeles Times after Otis Chandler lost control of his family paper and saw it spiral fracture as greedy Chandler siblings sold it (us) down the river (Chicago Tribune).

It took 20 years for the L.A. Times to rebound from colossal incompetence and bankruptcy, moral and business. The clowns allowed to run the town's top paper are not unlike some of the people who were put in charge of the Lakers.

The good news is the NBA is a sustainable business model.

Watching the Lakers sink isn’t easy but most simplistically, to me, can be traced to the loss of the two Jerrys.

Jerry One was 2002 when West, in a power struggle with Phil Jackson and god knows what else, left the Lakers for Memphis. West later moved on to Golden State, where he helped turn the Warriors into a championship franchise, and now is ridiculously advising the Clippers.

Jerry Two was Jerry Buss’ death in 2013, which led to the family-calamity state of today’s Laker dysfunction.

Magic Johnson’s abdication last month seemed a new low until Thursday’s news about Tyronn Lue.

The most reliable source of Laker information these days, unfortunately, comes not from Reuters or the AP or even the L.A. Times.

It comes from The LeBron James News Hour, his HBO show “The Shop,” where he sits in a barber chair with friends and fills us in on what he was thinking back on April 11.

This 6 o'clock news is now hosted by Walter Crewcut.

Laker world these days is very, very strange.

They used to hold parades at Staple Center, but Friday fans are holding a protest rally.

The team is being run into the ground by a palooka, I mean a Pelinka.

I liked it better when announcer Chick Hearn was also the assistant GM who, in 1970, signed washed-up Pat Riley off the waiver wire from Portland.

Those were my Lakers. Our Lakers.

I don’t pretend to have all the inside answers but there does seem to remain one sensible course correction.

Jerry Buss is dead but Jerry West isn’t.

There is no way on God’s Purple Earth that West should end his career and/or life as an employee of the L.A. Clippers.

Jerry West is a Laker. Bring him home before it's too late.

Make things right before Kobe wants to take over.

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