Of all the things that have given me reason to believe that West might be open to the idea, none were more convincing than what came out of West’s mouth when he guested on the Dan Patrick Show in March. In addition to crediting this year’s Lakers team for playing hard all season, calling out Magic Johnson for his constant criticisms (even though he didn’t mention him by name), and defending fellow West Virginian, D’Antoni, for doing as good a job as one could expect from a roster he felt wouldn’t have been able to compete, even without all the injuries they’d suffered.
“I watch the Lakers with great interest and I will until I part this earth,” West told Patrick. “Honestly, I root for them. I still want them to win. I know how difficult this season [was], but it’s part of the process of trying to rebuild a team that needs rebuilt.”
When asked what he thought of Kobe calling out the front office, here’s how he responded:
“I really don’t want to get into that. But if I were a player I would never say a word,” You’d like things to be like they were before. But time changes everything. Leadership changes everything. Jerry Buss was a great leader, but he also had the benefit of having some incredible players. They don’t have that kind of talent there today. People should let them try to rework this franchise and give them the opportunity without the constant criticism.”
Regarding Magic Johnson’s criticism, these were his comments:
“It’s easy to criticize when you’re on the sidelines to criticize. It’s easy for fans, particularly players and ex-players to rant and criticize everything they do over there. But it doesn’t help.”
Listen to the entire interview for yourself. The Lakers discussion starts around 5:02:
In just the few minutes in which they spoke about the Lakers, West seemed to have as good of a grasp on things as anyone affiliated with the team. I can’t really blame the front office for not wanting to engage in a war of words with either Magic or Kobe. It’s probably because they lack West’s gravitas. I don’t think the West’s answers would have been any different if he was still a Lakers employee. It’s akin to the difference between someone sounding like they’re giving you an explanation versus someone who sounds like they’re just making excuses.
West has never shied away from a challenge. He accepted a job with the Grizzlies after a season in which the team went 23-59. The current state of the Lakers presents a challenge, but at least they’ve already gone through the really hard part. Armed with a ton of cap space, a lottery pick, a head coaching vacancy, and Steve Nash’s $9 million expiring contract, there’s plenty of work to be done. West doesn’t have to worry about feeling extraneous or redundant. His presence alone would be significant, no matter how much or how little time he’s around.
However, I’m not suggesting they put him on the payroll and give him a symbolic title just so they can put his picture in the media guide for credibility. It’s essential that he be given enough responsibilities so that he not only has a personal stake in the the team’s return to glory, but so that he legitimately deserves to share in the credit when, not if, it happens.
Lakers Nation Best Of: Top 5 Jerry West Lakers Moments