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

Mar 19, 2014, 11:46 AM EST

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.

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