Video: ‘Exhibit A’ On Why Phil Jackson Leaving LA

In the past few weeks, the main media has erroneously reported a supposed rift between Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant that allegedly began when Bryant’s wife Vanessa broke up Gasol’s relationship with girlfriend Silvia Lopez Castro.

That rumor, thanks to comments by Gasol as early as last Saturday, has now been completely debunked. Gasol has since confirmed he is still with Castro and nothing has changed in their relationship.

While that break between Gasol and Bryant never existed, now ex-Lakers Coach Phil Jackson confirmed yesterday a disconnect between himself and a key member of the Lakers basketball operation and ownership.

Wednesday, as Jackson conducted his final press conference as Lakers coach, he was asked by FOX Sports Radio reporter David Vassegh:

“Do feel you have a stronger sense of attachment (to the Lakers) other than Jeanie (Buss, Jackson girlfriend and daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss) than you did with the Bulls?” 

Jackson reply:

“There are people in the organization, yes, that I have an attachment to. You know I haven’t spoken to (Lakers Exec. VP, Player Personnel and son of owner Jerry) Jimmy Buss this year.

“Jerry I see occasionally and we confer. (Lakers General Manager) Mitch (Kupchak) and I have our chances to be together and we have a good relationship. Those are people in that department that I have a relationship with.

“As far as management, if you want to call it that, there’s really not a relationship with that.”

Jackson couldn’t have slighted Jim Buss any more in his comments than he did with that remark.

Longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss has made clear on numerous occasions that Jim Buss will formally take over the basketball operation of the team when he relinquishes all control of the franchise. (Jeanie will continue to run the business operation.)

While Mitch Kupchak technically runs the Lakers basketball operation, eventually he will report solely to Jim Buss, though from Jerry’s comments last August, it sounds as if that is already the case.

During a press conference on August 17, 2010, Jerry Buss said of his role with the team’s basketball operation:

“I still talk to my son Jimmy at least twice a day. Some of those phone calls are as long as an hour. The large portion of the content of those phone calls is basketball. What we should do, what we’re doing. 

“In terms of (Lakers basketball) decisions, 80% of it goes with Jim and I throw in my two cents worth here and there.”

That Jim Buss did not speak to Jackson this season is very telling when it comes to the coach’s relationship to the future, formal overseer of the Lakers basketball fortunes.

If you’re wondering why Jackson is leaving L.A., there’s your ‘Exhibit A.’

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Billion Dollar TV Deal Saves Team For Buss Family

Yesterday Joe Flint of the LOS ANGELES TIMES and this morning John Ourand of SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY reported the Lakers have agreed to a 20-year local broadcast rights agreement with Time Warner Cable for an eye-popping $3 billion.

Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss, Jerry Buss

(Jim Buss (ctr) helps run Lakers basketball ops with Mitch Kupchak (l))

Though Flint also reported that Time Warner officials “dismisssed” the $3 billion figure, I’ve been told by multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations today that that number is accurate, with one source noting to me that the reported $3 billion number “may actually be conservative.”

So as of the 2012-13 season all Lakers game in Los Angeles, except for national telecasts, will air on cable. Currently, the games here in L.A. are broadcast on over-the-air station KCAL 9 (CBS) and cable channel Fox Sports West.

As the English and Spanish cable channels TWC will air the games on don’t yet exist, TWC still has to convince Direct TV, Dish Network and the Cox and Charter cable television operations to pick up those new sports channels at what Ourand reported Time Warner Cable Exec VP/Chief Programming Officer Melinda Witmer calling a “reasonable” financial basis:

“We are seeking to work with all of the distributors to find a reasonable basis to get full distribution of the network. We want the Lakers to be available to everyone regardless of who their provider is.”

Flint reports that in order for TWC to pay that enormous broadcast rights fee, it will have to charge a rate significantly higher than what Fox Sports West currently charges satellite and cable companies to broadcast Lakers games in Los Angeles:

Consumers may feel some pain as a result of the deal. Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) are generally some of the most expensive programming for distributors. Typically, RSNs cost between north of $2.50 per month, per subscriber. Given the high cost of the Lakers, Time Warner Cable will likely be looking for north of $3.50.

You can expect Cox, Charter, Dish and DTV to publicly balk at such a fee hike, but TWC apparently has a plan that it hopes will make them more amenable. From Flint:

Time Warner Cable, which has about 2 million subscribers in Southern California, isn’t looking to stop with the Lakers. In an interview, Melinda Witmer, executive vice president and chief programming officer of Time Warner Cable, said the company would be “looking at all available sports in the marketplace.”

Next on their list could be the Dodgers. The team’s current pact with Fox’s Prime Ticket channel expires in 2013.

In other words, if TWC were to have the Lakers and  Dodgers for its new sports channels, it’d essentially have a gun to the head of Cox, Charter, Dish and DTV. Though it is important to note that Fox Sports West has a favorable contractual arrangement with the Dodgers and, from what multiple sources within the team tell me, is more likely to retain those rights.

If this Lakers TV deal sounds unusual, it isn’t. There are other markets in which cable companies have jumped into the sports business, but this is TWC’s first foray.

While this is big news for Lakers fans, the more important part of this story is what it will mean to the ownership of the team.

From Flint:

Witmer said the move to get into business with the Lakers is part of its overall desire to “control our economic destiny.”

Read more…

Buss: ‘No playoffs? You don’t work here anymore’

Lakers Owner Jerry Buss to the ASSOCIATED PRESS this week:

Jerry Buss female Lakers fan

(Okay, you can stay)

“Some time ago, talking to some people, they wanted a bonus if the Lakers made the playoffs. I said, `Bonus? If we don’t make the playoffs, you don’t work here anymore.”’

Buss also opined on the derision borne of LeBron James‘ recent decision:

Given the devastating affect James’ decision had on the team and the city, Buss had “mixed emotions” about James’ departure and felt he “let down a lot of people and it seemed kind of sad.”

More snips: Read more…

Report: Phil Jackson Asked To Take 60% Pay Cut

In late 2009, Phil Jackson intimated to the media that money may be a major factor if he’s to return as Lakers coach next season. Before the Lakers played the Nets on December 19, Jackson said:

Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant

“A lot of it has to do with the direction the league is going, the direction the ownership wants to go in. People are cutting costs all around the league, and coaches are obviously going to take a cut too, so they may not even want to hire me. They may want to save some money.”

When asked in a followup if he’d take a pay cut to remain as coach of the Lakers, Jackson said, “Why would you?

Then last March, Jackson got more specific about what will dictate his return:

“(Lakers Owner) Dr. (Jerry) Buss said that he put some things on the line by re-signing Lamar [Odom], so it’s financial. This team has never lost money since he took over the team so that’s a big part of it. I pushed him to sign Lamar and we all said we have to have this guy back even if it’s going to put this team in jeopardy financially. At a time when it’s tough in this league, he took the step.”

Most recently, Jackson’s girlfriend and head of the team’s business operations, Jeanie Buss, said last month of her father, Lakers Owners Jerry Buss:

“My dad has made it very clear he doesn’t want to pay him what he’s been paying him. So that’s kind of hard, too. You could kind of say, in some jobs, well I’m cutting back your hours. But can you see him cutting back his hours?”

That leads into a report this week that pegged the pay cut that Jackson allegedly will have to take if he is to remain Lakers coach after this season.

Read more…

Week In Review: Pitino Pays $3,000 For Abortion

Rick Pitino’s reputation has taken a huge hit, as the Louisville b-ball coach impregnated the woman who’s been trying to extort him, then paid $3,000 for the abortion.

Rick Pitino Karen Sypher

And now Karen Sypher says her marriage to Cardinals equipment manager Tim was all just a sneaky plot by Pitino to keep an eye on her. But hey, don’t blame Rick - blame 9/11!

• The release party for the new Miami Dolphins cheerleaders bikini calendar was quite the spectacle.

Jay Mariotti denies that he’s going to be writing for the Chicago Tribune. Can’t wait to see Jay’s debut column in the Trib on September 1st!

Manny Ramirez gets a memorable reception from San Francisco Giants fans - the same kind of reception that Barry Bonds used to get everywhere else except in the Bay Area.

• Engaged Malibu fashion designer Ali Kay may have encouraged Reggie Miller’s unwanted advances by sending the ex-NBA star photos of herself in bed & in a bikini. At least Ali’s still pretty good at making clothes.

Read more…

Rick Pitino Pays Woman $3,000 To Have Abortion

Rick Pitino paid $3,000 to escape the possibility of parenthood with the woman accused of extorting him. Will Louisville keep Rick in the Cards?

Rick Pitino Pat Forde Karen Sypher

• No wonder Reggie Miller has been so smitten with Ali Kay - she’s quite the fashion designer.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers show their own version of the shotgun formation.

• Kids at a Virginia basketball camp learn that Michael Vick is a wholesome, blameless creature.

• Whoever took it, please give Baron Davis’ laptop back - he has some “private images” he’d like to keep private.

Read more…

Jeanie Buss Thinks PhilJax Will Linger With Lakers

I don’t particularly buy into the Phil Jackson-as-Coaching-God theory — when you’re blessed with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and a young Shaquille O’Neal, probably the top three players of this generation, you had better win 10 NBA titles. So whether or not he stays with the Lakers holds no special interest for me. Others, as I understand it, care a whole lot.

Phil Jackson, Jeanie Buss

That would include Lakers vice president Jeanie Buss, who happens to be Jackson’s longtime girlfriend. With former Lakers assistant and Jackson protege Kurt Rambis headed to the Timberwolves, Buss made a somewhat surprising observation recently on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles: Rambis’ departure could mean that Jackson could stick around in LA longer than anticipated. Read more…

Report: Laker Girls Turned Down SI Swimsuit Shot

This week I haven’t sensed the huge buzz that normally accompanies the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED swimsuit issue. And apparently I’m not alone.

Lakers Girls turn down Sports Illustrated

(Perhaps trauma of this swimsuit encounter played a role in the decision)

Brian Perdue of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER reports that perhaps the SI swimsuit issue isn’t exciting high profile female sex symbols as much as it used to:

Lakers beat writer Janis Carr said that the Lakers turned down an offer to include Laker Girls in the spread. Still, the omission is comparable to leaving the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders out of an NFL cheerleader photo shoot.

The amazing thing about it, according to Perdue, is that it wasn’t the Lakers organization that scuttled the idea. Read more…

Nude Model Turned NBA Scout Freshens Resume

I had dinner last night with someone who works in close proximity to the Lakers front office, and we were chuckling about how the NBA franchise is known as a model organization in the pro sports industry.

Jerry Buss Walk Of Fame

What many don’t know is that because of Jerry Buss’ general lack of funds, the organization is run on a shoestring. There’s essentially five full-timers in the entire front office. Five. That said, many NBA teams are learning that perhaps that isn’t such a bad business model. Especially in the current economic climate.

Because Buss isn’t as financially fit as most pro sports owners, it’s safe to say that if the Lakers hadn’t had their remarkable run of championships during his tenure, he probably would’ve lost control of the franchise long ago. In other words, if he ran the team the way Donald Sterling has run the Clippers, the Lakers wouldn’t have been such a cash-generating machine, and Buss probably would’ve had to sell at some point.

Jerry Buss Is A Lecher

What also makes the Lakers so wonderfully unique is the way septugenerian Buss galivants around in the company of females 50 years his junior. And of course his daughter Jeanie posing for Playboy and *dating* 61-year-old Phil Jackson. It really can’t get any better than that, can it?

Jeanie Buss basketballs

Actually, it can.

Bonnie Jill Laflin Lakers scout

How about the club hiring a nude model, Bonnie-Jill Laflin (above), as a scout? You might remember our previous reportage on her somewhere among those dusty SbB back issues in your basement - right next to the nudie mags you saw her splayed out in.

Bonnie Jill Laflin Jerry Buss

I’m happy to report that thanks to the kooks at PETA, Laflin she has freshened up her nude modeling resume. New pic after the jump. Read more…

Sexy Lakers Scout Eyeing Players, and Vice Versa

When Hugh Hefner makes his way to Staples Center on Tuesday, there’s one Lakers front-office employee the Playboy purveyor will most certainly have his eye on - Bonnie-Jill Laflin.

Bonnie Jill Laflin Lakers scout

Laflin is a former model-slash-actress-slash-TV reporter who serves as a scout for the L.A. b-ball squad. But when she sits herself down at courtside to watch prospective players, who’s checking out who?

Read more…