Play­offs the goal in LeBron’s first sea­son, says Lak­ers’ Buss

Gulf Times Sport - - SPORT -

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 apol­o­gised 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 LA 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 20182019 sea­son on the road against the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers on Thurs­day be­fore they take on the Hous­ton Rock­ets in their home opener on Oc­to­ber 20.

HEAT, WINSLOW AGREE TO THREE-YEAR EX­TEN­SION

The Mi­ami Heat and for­ward Jus­tise Winslow have reached agree­ment on a three-year, $39 mil­lion ex­ten­sion, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple re­ports Fri­day.

The ex­ten­sion will be­gin in 2019-20 and run through the 2021-22 sea­son. The third year of the deal will re­port­edly be a team op­tion. Winslow will earn roughly $3.4 mil­lion this sea­son in the fi­nal year of his rookie-scale con­tract.

The Heat had un­til Mon­day to agree to an ex­ten­sion with Winslow, who was set to be­come a re­stricted free agent next sum­mer if a deal hadn’t been reached.

Winslow, 22, av­er­aged 7.8 points and 5.4 re­bounds in 68 games (25 starts) last sea­son. He missed the ma­jor­ity of the 2016-17 cam­paign af­ter need­ing surgery to re­pair a torn shoul­der labrum.

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