EL SEGUNDO (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles Lakers returned to their first day of practice on Tuesday following the death of team owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
One day after Lakers spokesman John Black announced that the Lakers organization would “remain with the family”, players returned to the team’s training facility in El Segundo after All-Star weekend facing a seemingly uncertain future.
But Black insisted that Buss had long made preparations for this very day.
“His ownership is now a part of a trust for his six children,” Black said. “The family knew for a while that his passing was imminent, so they had a lot of time to get as used to this as possible.”
Buss died on Monday from an undisclosed form of cancer. He was 80 years old.
Longtime family friend and spokesman Bob Steiner addressed the issue during a news conference Tuesday, clarifying that responsibility of day-to-day operations will be handled by two of Buss’ adult children – Jim and Jeanie – as it has been for over a year since Dr. Buss first became ill.
Along with General Manager Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss will handle the basketball side of the organization, while daughter Jeanie will continue to run the business side of the Lakers, while also retaining her seat on the Board of Governors for the National Basketball Association.
“Jim spent a lot of years traveling scouting trips with Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak,” said Steiner. “They didn’t just come into these positions, they grew into them.”
But with the Lakers’ overall record at an underachieving 25-29, rumors have swirled over whether Kupchak would consider making any personnel moves ahead of the league’s trade deadline on Feb. 21.
Steiner, however, said fans should rest assured that the Lakers and the Buss family won’t allow their period of mourning to stop this team – or its legacy – from moving forward.
“The operation of the Lakers won’t come to a halt,” he said. “It was Dr. Buss’ foresight…he planned for this day.”
The Lakers will resume their regular season against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on Wednesday.