LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Success for the Los Angeles Lakers’ first season with LeBron James will be measured by whether the team can make the playoffs after a five-year absence, owner Jeanie Buss has told Reuters.
James made the move to the Lakers from the Cleveland Cavaliers official in July when the three-time NBA champion signed a four-year $154 million contact.
“We have to get back in the playoffs,” said Buss, who took the reigns of the storied franchise from her father Jerry after his death in 2013.
“That was the idea. We haven’t been in the playoffs for five years and that’s something Dr. Buss wouldn’t have stood for.”
She said that, given the team’s young core, which includes Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, getting playoff experience now would pay dividends down the road.
“It’s like an investment,” she said in a recent interview.
“You have to give them that playing time because otherwise they are never going to learn what it’s like. You can’t go from the bottom to the top overnight, you have to keep taking those steps.”
Buss apologized to Lakers fans, who have seen the organization, which has won 16 NBA championships, fall on hard times.
“My dad gave me the authority to make any changes that I thought necessary,” she said.
“And I gave everything three years. I wanted things to work out the way they had been laid out but it wasn’t working and I had to make the toughest decision I ever had to make.”
That decision included firing general manager Mitch Kupchak and accepting the resignation of her brother Jim as vice president of basketball operations, a role she filled with Lakers legend and longtime friend Magic Johnson.
“LeBron coming to L.A. is 100 percent about Magic because he has given us an identity of who the Lakers are, what we stand for and what we’re working toward,” she said.
“And having the best player in the NBA decide to come and join our team is validation for what Magic is building and the vision that he’s created.
“So I’m really, really hopeful for the playoffs and once you get LeBron James to the playoffs, anything can happen, right?”
The Lakers kick off the 2018-2019 season on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday before they take on the Houston Rockets in their home opener on Oct. 20.
Editing by Peter Rutherford