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NBA investigates Phil Jackson (Knicks) and Jeanie Buss (Lakers) for conflict of interest

Mar 19, 2014, 11:46 AM EDT

Former Los Angeles Lakers coach Jackson sits with Lakers Executive Vice President of Business Operations Buss during the NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Los Angeles

Now engaged, Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss have dated since 1999. Their relationship surely got awkward at times during the 11 years Jackson worked for the Buss family business, the Los Angeles Lakers.

With Jackson coaching and Jeanie Buss working in the front office, there definitely could have been conflicts of interest. There surely were conflicts of interest. But those two and the organization managed them.

Now that Jackson has become the Knicks’ president, the potential conflicts of interest full under a different jurisdiction – the NBA.

Buss appeared on TWC Sports Net (watch an excerpt here), and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN transcribed parts of the full version:

Sounds like everyone got the all clear, but the league surely spent time considering the potential legal issues and probably issuing some warning about how Jackson, Buss, the Knicks and Lakers should act.

How often do significant others work for opposing teams? This is possibly unprecedented territory.

Maybe the Lakers having no interest in re-re-hiring Jackson helped Silver reach his conclusion, but I find it interesting the relationship was excused because Buss deals only with the business side. Because James Dolan owns both the Knicks and MSG Network, which shows Knicks games, the NBA can’t determine how much the Knicks’ media rights are worth. Therefore, Collective Bargaining Agreement just uses the Lakers’ media-rights value – negotiated by Buss – as a stand-in for the Knicks’ (hat tip: Kevin Draper of The Diss):

With respect to the transactions listed below in this Section 1(a)(7)(iii), the parties agree that, because the proceeds attributable to these transactions cannot be accurately ascertained, the following procedures shall be used for each NBA Season in which MSG Network is a Related Party of the Knicks (in the case of Section 1(a)(7)(iii)(A) below) and the Madison Square Garden arena is a Related Party of the Knicks (in the case of Section 1(a)(7)(iii)(B) below):

(A) New York Knicks transaction with MSG Network regarding the sale of local media rights: BRI for the Knicks for each NBA Season covered by this Agreement shall include an amount equal to the net proceeds included in BRI attributable to the Los Angeles Lakers’ sale, license or other conveyance of all local media rights (including, but not limited to,broadcast and cable television and radio) for such NBA season.

That doesn’t make the Jackson-Buss relationship inherently a conflict of interest by any means. But it’s interesting how tied together they remain professionally.

Jackson and Buss can likely will avoid meaningful conflicts of interest, but it’s an issue the NBA is and will remain aware of.

  1. miamiheatles - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    In other words, any trades between the Knicks and Lakers will be rescinded.

    • RavenzGunnerz - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:11 PM

      For basketball reasons.

    • zacksdad - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:17 PM

      No, any trades that make other NBA owners worried that the Lakers will get better will be rescinded. But then again we have a new commissioner. Lets see how much he listens to other owners complaining on what the Lakers get.

      • spursareold - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        The commissioner WORKS for the owners. They pay his salary, something Stern forgot from time to time.

      • Professor Fate - Mar 20, 2014 at 12:19 AM

        Your comment doesn’t address the point zacksdad made about other owners lobbying the commissioner to negate a legitimate trade by the GM Stern appointed to run the Hornets. Apparently Stern only worked for SOME of the owners, as he certainly listened to them when it was about the Chris Paul trade. And then promptly allowed Paul to go to the other L.A. club.

  2. bucrightoff - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    Jeanie is smarter than little Jimmy.

    • azarkhan - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      Brains aren’t her only asset.

    • dyn0myte - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:15 PM

      I have a rusted and broken door knob on the rear door of my garage that’s smarter than Jim Buss.

    • dyn0myte - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:19 PM

      I have luggage collecting dust in my attic that’s smarter than Jim Buss.

    • dyn0myte - Mar 19, 2014 at 9:21 PM

      I have ear wax that’s smarter than Jim Buss.

  3. cantonbound13 - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    David Stern must be opposed to it so he can protect his beloved Heat. Hopefully Silver is not his puppet.

  4. RavenzGunnerz - Mar 19, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    This article is pretty much Twitter…

  5. genericcommenter - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    I think her dinner with Silver probably took care of things.

  6. bbk1000 - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    The league should investigate why she’s dating an old man….

    • dablakdrphil - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:02 PM

      It’s none of the League’s business who she dates, if she wants to date a much older man then that’s her right

      • bbk1000 - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:23 PM

        errrr….I was just kidding…..

  7. dyn0myte - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    “…Phil wanted to go back to work, but there was no role for him with the Lakers…”

    I think it’s likely that decision was made by Jim Buss – fearful that if the Lakers were again successful, Phil would get the credit.

    Of course, under the direction of Jim Buss, there will be very few opportunities to give anyone credit, and far too many chances to place blame.

    • asimonetti88 - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      “I think it’s likely that decision was made by Jim Buss ”

      Way to go out on a limb there.

    • mackcarrington - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:32 PM

      I don’t know cause I’m not in the inner circle, but from the outside, it would seem that Jim wants to make sure the Lakers remain the FAMILY business. Although Jackson would be a hired employee, things would certainly get clouded once Jackson marries his sister. I don’t know if credit matters.

      • dyn0myte - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:41 PM

        Honestly, I believe “credit” is the only thing that matters to Jim.

        He purged all things Phil – from trainers to equipment managers, assistants, and scouts from the Lakers organization – a move unprecedented in Laker history.
        Brian Shaw later commented, “…somebody said there were 30 championship rings within the coaching staff of the Lakers, and then basically the whole staff is out on the street…”

        He has vowed to place his “stamp” on the Lakers and promised to “change the culture”.
        Brian Shaw’s response was, “I’m like, 29 other teams in the league would love to have this kind of culture”.

        Jim Buss fully intends to be the man to lead the Lakers to success – or the Lakers will not succeed.

  8. jcmeyer10 - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    Jackson: “what does a guy gotta do to get an unprotected first round pick thrown in there?!”

    Buss: “first, maybe you could listen and cook dinner every once in a while. I’m not asking for much, just show me that you care babe”

    Haha, imagine.

    • mackcarrington - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:56 PM

      Haha. Yeah that would be funny if Jeanie was the one making basketball decisions.
      I don’t see Phil and Jim having that particular conversation.

      • jcmeyer10 - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:58 PM

        Can’t we have a little fun?

    • mackcarrington - Mar 19, 2014 at 5:04 PM

      Of course.

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

    “…(T)he league is sensitive to the impression of any impropriety. On Tuesday, Lakers forward Pau Gasol told reporters that he isn’t allowed to talk to his former coach because he’ll be a free agent and any talks with Jackson could be considered tampering.”

    Timberwolves’ GM Kevin McHale giving Kevin Garnett to the Celtics for basically nothing wasn’t “improper,” but a legitimate trade between New Orleans and the Lakers was torpedoed by Stern for “basketball reasons.” Funny how the NBA decides what is improper, particularly about something that hasn’t happened.

    I guess this definitively puts to rest any possibility of Carmelo Anthony signing with the Lakers, which certainly doesn’t break my heart. Also no chance Gasol signs with New York. No further reason for the Knicks and Lakers to ever discuss any transaction of any kind in the future, since the league would likely hoist its petticoats with a shrill whine over a perceived “impropriety.” Oh, wait, that already happened when the Lakers tried to trade for Chris Paul.

    The NBA has plenty of issues regarding conflicts of interest that are real (NBAPA executive director Billy Hunter and nepotism, previously mentioned meddling by Stern, etc.) vs. a potential one between club employees who’s duties don’t overlap. Apparently Silver hasn’t been paying much attention to what Jim Buss has been doing in L.A. or he’d know that Jeannie doesn’t have much in the way of influence with him.

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