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Mark Cuban: Lakers might never be the Lakers again

Mar 19, 2014, 11:04 AM EDT

Mavericks' Cuban reacts as Carter guards Lakers' Bryant during the second half of their NBA basketball game in Dallas

There are a lot of incredible stats about the Lakers’ historic greatness, but this one is my favorite: Between 1949 and 2010 – a 62-year stretch – the Lakers appeared in half of all NBA Finals. Half! That is just astonishing.

And for the second half of that run, Jerry Buss owned the franchise.

Sometime near the end of the stretch, Jerry Buss ceded power to his son Jim Buss, and Jerry died last year. Since, on and off the court, the Lakers have been a bit off.

Mark Cuban, via Dwain Price of Full-Court Press:

“Jerry Buss was the Lakers, so I don’t know if the Lakers will ever be the Lakers,” Cuban said prior to the Mavs’ 94-89 win over Boston on Monday. “I don’t think there was a smarter owner in the history of the NBA than Jerry Buss, so that’s tough to replace.

“I don’t think people realize just how good of an owner Jerry was. I looked up to him a lot. Absolutely. So I don’t know if the Lakers will ever be the Lakers.”

At times, I’ve wondered whether the Lakers will ever dominate again like they once did. Their large market, warm weather and proximity to Hollywood give them some inherent advantages that won’t go away anytime soon. But are they predestined to always exploit those factors? Were other elements, like Jerry Buss’ presence and that of other specific owners before him, essential to the Lakers’ winning recipe?

The Lakers have fallen on hard times before, and I’m sure similar uncertainty existed in those moments, too. But they’ve always returned to the top quickly, clearing the doubts.

Maybe hindsight will make this dry spell also seem small, but until that happens, the doubts will remain.

And even if the Lakers get back on top, they’ll have at least a slightly different style without Jerry Buss. It’s impossible for the Lakers to ever become Jerry Buss’ Lakers again, so in that sense, Cuban is correct.

But if they’re winning big again, they’ll still be the Lakers. Will that happen, though?

  1. asimonetti88 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    The Lakers under Jerry Buss were Jerry Buss’ Lakers. Let’s not forget, the Lakers were also a great team under Jack Kent Cooke.

    • spursareold - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:37 AM

      The won ONE Finals in like 15 years!

      • asimonetti88 - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        They won the NBA Finals in 1972, they went to 7 NBA Finals and they built and moved into the Forum. Yes they “only” won one championship, but let’s not forget that was the era of the Celtics. Not very many teams besides Boston won much during that span.

      • spursareold - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        Second place is first loser. Do people remember Buffalo as probably the 3rd best NFL team of the 90s? No. They remember that they lost a lot of Superbowls.

      • asimonetti88 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        Mark Cuban seems to be a well regarded owner and he’s won one Finals in close to 15 years as owner.

      • 00maltliquor - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:44 PM

        spurs is right,
        If you’re not first, you’re last
        -Ricky Bobby

      • jimeejohnson - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:07 PM

        “Nice guys finish last.”

    • azarkhan - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      Jack Kent Cooke was the best owner the Washington Redskins have ever had. He hired Joe Gibbs and the team won 3 Super Bowls.

  2. TheMorningStar - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    Jim Buss = the left coast version of James Dolan (minus Phil Jackson)

    Get ready Laker fans, a decade of dreadful basketball awaits you.

    Sorry Kobe, no more championship rings for you…your quest to equal/top Michael Jordan in that regard is over.

    • mikerome64 - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:23 AM

      The Lakers went from 1988-2000 without winning a championship. Guess who the owner was?

      • wkl21 - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        still got to the Finals in 91.

      • TheMorningStar - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:59 PM

        True, but if Magic wasn’t forced to retire, who knows. Remember they took the Suns to the brink of elimination in 1993-94.

  3. R. Edmond - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    The CBA was targetted directly at teams like the Lakers. To combat that and set the Lakers straight for the next decade, we almost got Chris Paul but…

    “basketball reasons” happened. C’est la vie. Lakers will return though because it’s still a desirable city to play in.

    Coastal teams will always have the advantage.

    • spursareold - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      Who was the last MAJOR FA that signed with the Lakers?

      • tmhofficial - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        Nick Young doesn’t count…?

      • chapmanb2014 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:48 AM

        That is not a fair comment because FA very rarely hit the market in the NBA. The really big players arrive via sign and trade deals. The Lakers will always be a top tier NBA team.

      • echech88 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        Did Carmelo sign with the Knicks when he left the Nuggets?

        Not about free agency in today’s NBA. Players force their way via trade now.

      • spursareold - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        CP3 forced a trade, and you couldn’t get him. You got Dwight, and lost him.

        You need an MVP caliber player to win a LoB. Even the “power” trades of the last 5-6 years have only forced one of those loose, and that was a de facto “FA trade” in LeBron James. DH12, CP3, Melo and Pau would not be enough on their own to turn a franchise around and make them a contender.

  4. echech88 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Did the last line of this article really just ask if the Lakers will ever be winning big again?

    They very well might suck for a long time, but the idea that they won’t eventually be great again is asinine. Look at how quick the Celtics became a league treasure again with the arrival of KG and Ray after years of being bad.

    Once there is even a hint of them being very good again, there will tremendous buzz and the available stars and their business managers will recognize the Lakers are a massive opportunity.

    • antistratfordian - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      It may take a few decades before they’re “very good again.” But you’re right.

      • jimeejohnson - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:09 PM

        You mean the Celtics.

  5. smoothaswilkes - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    This is all a bit of hyperbole and, to a certain degree, revisionist history. Yes, Dr. Buss was one of the best owners of all time, that can’t be disputed.

    “The Lakers have fallen on hard times before, and I’m sure similar uncertainty existed in those moments, too. But they’ve always returned to the top quickly, clearing the doubts.”

    But feel free to live in the 90s for a min, when the Lakers were a mostly mediocre team that fans like me really enjoyed watching but never seriously contended for anything other that popularity in LA. That era saw the Lakers lose in the Finals to MJ in ’91, then it took 5 years to get back to 50 wins, and another 4 to get back to the Finals, which started their first 3-peat.

    And let’s not forget that their 9 year turn around in the 90s took place when the Lakers could basically pay their way through hard times – meaning there wasn’t a luxury tax or limits on the money they could offer players. So until Shaq was brought in during free agency, Dr. Buss could have paid for anyone in the NBA to come play in LA besides Van Exel, Threatt, and Cedric.

    Things are a bit different in today’s NBA, and the Lakers are just starting the process of rebuilding. So relax, the Lakers will figure things out, even without Dr. Buss. And while Cuban is sincere when he says he looked up to Dr. Buss, he’s still going to troll the Lakers. Trolls gonna troll.

    • paleihe - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:14 PM

      Even though the Lakers weren’t winning in the 90’s, they were so much fun to watch!

      Ceballos, Van Excel, Eddie Jones and George Lynch. I remember Eddie Jordan went bananas one game, hit close to 30, and the forum went bonkers. Loved every minute of it.

      And I agree, the Lakers will be back. Relax, give it time. First year we won’t make the playoffs in almost a decade, not too shabby.

  6. 1harrypairatesties - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    L.A. has a great team. They’re called the Clippers.

    • R. Edmond - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      They don’t grab many headlines.

    • spthegr8 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      ^^^^ I wouldn’t call the Clippers “great”. Good, but not great. Remind me, what have they accomplished that makes them “great”.??? Just wondering.??

      • fanofthegame79 - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:42 PM

        Bingo. That word “great” was used way too quickly on the Clippers. They could lose in the 1st round and this season would be a huge bust.

  7. legend30 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    I agree with Cuban. Jerry Buss’ was the greatest owner in all professional sports. He treated everyone the same, and that’s with love and respect.

  8. cruzan80 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Really though….for all the flak the Knicks have gotten this season…..the reality is their future is brighter than the Lakers.

    The Knicks star is currently playing in his prime & they are about to re-sign him for probably 5 years. Although they don’t have a 1st round draft pick THIS year…they do next year & they’ll have tons of money that summer to spend on another prolific All-Star (Love, Aldridge, Rondo ect..) to pair with Melo. Also, with Phil Jackson now taking the title of ‘smartest guy in the room” away from Dolan…the Knicks may have just solved what was their biggest problem over the past decade.

    The Lakers on the other hand (now being ran by what has so far been the wrong Buss) seem to be doing almost the exact opposite. Their recently resigned star player is on the wrong side of 30 & is also hurt. Yes, they have tons of money to spend this summer…but the FA class isn’t an attractive one this summer. Anthony, Wade, Bosh & James are all expected to re-sign with their current team. The FA’s that are expected to be available next summer aren’t going to be franchise players…very, very good players…but not “face of the franchise” type players. The Lakers future really hinges on getting Wiggins or Parker this summer AND them turning into true studs in the NBA….which is of course possible…but still a lot of “ifs” will have to go their way.

    The one sure thing the Lakers have going for them & their future is the fact that they are still the Lakers & L.A. is still L.A. Players will eventually come (Westbrook or Durant)……but it’s gonna be an uncharacteristic long wait in L.A. before they become great again in my opinion.

    • jimeejohnson - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:13 PM

      You post a pro-New Yawk comment on a Lakers blog you get a lot of thumbs downs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

      • cruzan80 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:08 PM

        Lol, I’m good with that….did t post it to get a “thumbs up”…….just my opinion.

  9. harshedmellow - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    They sure aren’t gonna be good again making the kinds of moves they’ve made in the last few years! Kobe’s contract is ludicrous and will prevent any greatness from occurring in the next two years, that much is for sure.

  10. billtetley53 - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    You can’t compare building a team in the Cooke and BUSS the elder years to now.

    Completely different cbas and different parameters.

    Why can lakers fans not get this through their thick, dumb skulls? Its mind numbing with total willful ignorance of just spouting look back at history.

    Who cares?! You can’t just buy a championship any more without paying huge ramifications. I’m not talking just monetary either.
    I’ve said it since it was ratified, do yourselves a favor lakers fans and read up on it. Maybe it will temper your enthusiasm a bit.(doubtful) You look like tools for not knowing the penalties of going over the cap( which they will have to to field a competitive team.(thanks Kobe)

    • jimeejohnson - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:15 PM

      You probably live in a cold, grey, east of I-5 theetzone place.

  11. dyn0myte - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    Jim Buss will suck the profits out of the Los Angeles Lakers for the next 10 years. He will point to this profitability as evidence of his great “success”.

    They will sign past-their-prime free agents – valuing marketability over basketball success. At their best, they will be mediocre, at their worst – just embarrassing.

    When the Laker legacy seems irredeemably tarnished (and annual profits are significantly decreased), they will sell the “family business” to a corporate entity (who will promise to return the Los Angeles Lakers to their former glory).

    – and I’m a Laker fan…

  12. simoneauchristopher5 - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    Holding on to a 35 year old washed up shooting guard instead of listening to Dwight Howard & rebuilding around him is going to be the worst decision the Laker franchise ever makes. Kobe is old. He isn’t the same player yet he has the same a**hole attitude. It flies when you can dominate, but when you are half the player you used to be, it just makes guys hate him more. I’m not a huge Howard fan, but look at the Rockets & tell me he isn’t back to the same guy he was in Orlando. BTW- I’m not a Howard fan, just a basketball realist. Always take the guy in his prime, especially if he’s a big. When Buss moved Shaq, Kobe was in his prime & Shaq was 1 year away from starting his breakdown. His son did the opposite.

  13. mackcarrington - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    I find it interesting that Cuban makes more comments about the Lakers than any other team in the league.

    • jimeejohnson - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:15 PM

      “Wish they all could be California”…but those of us who live there THANK GOD they’re NOT!

      • 00maltliquor - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:06 PM

        Exactly. Like we need another car on our God-forsaken freeways! lol

  14. brugis23 - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:11 PM

    Haha! It used to be lakers fans suck…now and for a while will be lakers and their fans suck!

  15. Professor Fate - Mar 20, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    A big thank you to Captain Obvious for letting us know that the Lakers won’t be the same without the great Dr. Buss around. The movers and shakers of the world always have an insight us regular folks will never know. What a tool.

  16. sportfan2 - Mar 20, 2014 at 6:45 AM

    If Lakers keep giving old guards $48million for two years they are doomed. :)

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