Don’t Blame Lakers Management…Yet

Last week, Ken Berger of CBSsports.com laid the wood on Lakers management, detailing its dysfunction and calling LA’s front office an “uncommunicative, rudderless fiasco.”

Berger traced the lack of communication between Lakers ownership, Kobe Bryant and general manager Mitch Kupchak, to the growing influence and power of executive VP, Jim Buss, the son of owner Jerry Buss. Jim Buss has distanced himself and the Lakers organization from former head coach, Phil Jackson. Power struggles, paranoia, money…this is all just another day in Hollywood. Drama for drama’s sake.

But the juicy tidbit from Berger’s piece, the small fact that set Twitter ablaze around NBA circles, didn’t come until later when he described the Lakers scouting department. Here’s a tidbit from Berger: Via cbssports.com

Of the three college scouts listed in the Lakers’ media guide, Ryan West — Jerry’s son — is the only one with a résumé and a workload. The others are Jesse Buss, who’s currently unable to travel due to an injured leg, and a guy known throughout the organization simply as “Chaz.” His name in the media guide is Charles Osborne, and supposedly he’s a nice guy.

“A good guy,” said a person who has dealt with the Lakers’ front-office dysfunction in various management roles with other teams. “Great bartender.”

That’s right, the book on Chaz is that he’s a former bartender who also happens to be longtime friends with Jim Buss from their days in the horseracing business. But if you’re looking in bars and racetracks, you’re much more likely to find a sports writer to chronicle this circus than a viable trade option for Gasol.

The Los Angeles Lakers, the most valuable franchise in the NBA according to Forbes.com worth an estimated $900 million…hired a bartender as a scout? Chaz became the name of the day and even trended on Twitter.

Suddenly, Kobe was furious with management, Mitch Kupchak was a puppet and the Lakers were headed for the lottery. Are the Lakers really this messed up?

Nope.

I refused to jump the gun on this, opting instead to wait for the Lakers annual hysteria to subside. A week later, like clockwork, ChazGate gave way to today’s new overexposure — Kobe’s broken nose in an All-star game.

Chaz faded in the Twitter/Blogosphere, but Lakers brass still has a bullseye on its back. Is it deserved?

On Saturday, Dec. 10, the Lakers traded the reigning sixth man of the year and ultimate locker room glue-guy, Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for an $8.5 million trade exception and a 2012 first round pick. This trade was part of the collateral damage from the failed Chris Paul trade nixed by commissioner/Hornets owner David Stern. I, along with the rest of the NBA world did not understand this trade. The Lakers didn’t get anyone back? What the hell is a trade exception? What are Kupchak and Buss doing? All valid questions.

Clearly, Lakers brass saw a mentally worn out and a physically out of shape Odom. Less than three months later, Odom is averaging career worsts in points (7.7 pts), rebounds (4.5 rbs.), and assists (1.7 asts). Odom has reportedly left the Mavericks for two games to be with his ailing father in LA. Rumors swirled after the trade but before the season that Odom considered retirement. Rumors are currently circulating that he wants out of Dallas and may ask for a buyout, a buyout Mark Cuban has flat-out insisted is not coming Odom’s way. Bottom line, Odom wasn’t prepared for the season.

Meanwhile, the Lakers replaced Odom with Troy Murphy (3.9 pts., 3.5 rbs.) and Josh McRoberts (2.2 pts., 3.0 rbs.) Has it worked? No, not really. The Lakers bench is weak, as is the rest of the roster not named Bynum, Gasol or Bryant. The lone bright spot on the Lakers bench has been the emergence of little known, second-round rookie point guard Andrew Goudelock (Thanks, Chaz). Scott Howard-Cooper wrote today that the Lakers were doomed from the start thanks to a poorly constructed roster, one with an aging point guard (Fisher) and a terrible small-forward (Metta World Peace). Is that on Jim Buss or Kupchak? Both? Neither? The Lakers sold their souls for Metta, a deal that produced a world championship.

A Lamar Odom with his head in the clouds wouldn’t have made this roster click any better. But because he’s gone, the Lakers are now armed with a rather large trade exception and can take on salary without losing any players. (Not that losing World Peace or Steve Blake would be such a bad thing). Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley and Cleveland Cavs point guard, Ramon Sessions are just two of the names being thrown around as possible players taken on with the exception. Will Buss pull the trigger on it? The trade deadline is March 15. We’ll know more then. But my take? He better make a deal or LA fans can officially say they got rid of Odom for nothing. Even I don’t condone that, no matter how mentally and physically out of it LO was/is.

One more thing for Mr. Berger. Maybe he should have checked out his Twitter  before calling out Chaz. I know I did. Joe Treutlein is an assistant director of scouting for draftexpress.com. He also co-owns and co-runs hoopdata.com, a website frequently cited by NBA columnists and bloggers. His Twitter handle is @hoopdata. Here is what Treutlein had to say on Twitter the day Berger’s article went online:

@hoopdata FYI – Chaz is real, been a scout for a few years at least, travels to a lot of games, takes notes and watches games like every other scout 

…and @draftexpress is Jonathan Givony. Givony runs draftexpress.com and is a frequent contributor to Grantland on NBA and D-League scouting. Here’s what he had to say about Chaz.

@draftexpress As someone who attended dozens of NBA scouting events over the last 8 years, I can say Lakers scout Chaz Osborne is just as professional…

@draftexpress and as hard a worker as any scout you’ll come across. His background might be different, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t do his job well

Right now, I can’t fault Lakers management for a 20-14 squad. I can’t fault Lakers management for their scouting department. I can’t fault the Lakers for shopping Gasol. But get back to me after the deadline when all that could change.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s