LOS ANGELES — It was a grand opening ceremony for one of sports’ iconic franchises in late July.
Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, along with former Laker greats, were in attendance at the team’s practice facility to promote Buss’ docuseries titled, “Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers,” scheduled to premiere Monday on Hulu.
It’s a 10-episode series in which Buss quelled the notion that the project would not reveal any hard-hitting revelations due to being an in-house production. “We’re not sugarcoating anything,” she declared to Yahoo Sports.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was on hand as a spectator. He stood off to the side of the facility as Buss, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and film director Antoine Fuqua discussed the team’s storied history from being an NBA start-up to joining the league’s elite with championships after championships in such a short period.
This was the prophecy of the late Dr. Jerry Buss envisioned when he bought the team in 1979.
“When he started, he wanted to take on the Boston Celtics and all the winning they had done,” Buss told Yahoo Sports. “Now, with ring No. 17, we’re tied with the Celtics in terms of winning [championships]. That’s what he set out to do. And certainly the work is not done yet. We have to continue that quest, and we’ll do so.”
And that’s where Pelinka transitions to an active participant to help try to guide the Lakers to many more victorious seasons.
LeBron James’ meeting
The quest to continue racking up championships starts with the Lakers’ best player: LeBron James.
James and his agent Rich Paul — CEO of Klutch Sports — met with Pelinka and head coach Darvin Ham last week. The 37-year-old is approaching his 20th season in the league. He is due for a two-year, $97.1 million extension.
And while contract dialogue was broached, the majority of the hour-long meeting was about expressing concerns, and hearing out strategies and opinions to ensure there wouldn’t be a repeat of last season’s epic failure, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
James, sources said, drilled home the importance of consistent competitiveness and cohesion, noting that last season’s team didn’t give themselves a chance on many nights. The focus for the future Hall of Famer is competing every night in order to give themselves a chance to compete for a championship.
Ham agreed with James and reiterated that his main objectives are to hold everyone accountable and foster an atmosphere of selflessness, sources said. He voiced that defensive tenacity needs to be picked up all across the roster and also forewarned that players would have to play new roles and if he felt reluctance, he wouldn’t hesitate to remove them from the game, sources said.
Furthermore, the first-year head coach said one wrinkle he will implement and stick with is having the offense run through Anthony Davis, and James concurred, sources said. The team has been encouraged with Davis’ offseason progression and believe he’ll be in optimal shape to avoid serious injuries and carry a heavier load.
The team is also hopeful for a corner-3 shooting percentage bump from Russell Westbrook next season, sources said.
As for roster tinkering, Pelinka explained patience will be key in any potential moves the team makes, sources said. In a collaborative effort, all parties appear to be aligned on a common vision of seeing how the roster plays out before any drastic moves are sought.
James is finalizing a destination to host the team’s annual minicamp prior to training camp, with San Diego being the likely landing spot over Las Vegas, sources said. He’s hoping to build a better rapport with teammates before entering the 2022-23 season.
The meeting was deemed productive and informative.
Pelinka made his feelings clear that he wants James to retire as a Laker and promised to provide him with every resource possible to compete for a championship each year he’s with the organization, sources said.
That’s the legacy the Buss family established: idols and titles.
It started with Dr. Buss, and now Jeanie Buss is carving out her own legacy as the first female owner to win an NBA title. It’s a new cast of characters from the days of Jerry West, Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.
But that same Lakers legacy lives on.
“There is a lot more Lakers history to be written, and it’s going to be written by new players and new coaches,” Buss told Yahoo Sports.