New Los Angeles Lakers are typically brought to owner Jeanie Buss’ second-floor office overlooking the practice floor at the team’s training facility. And with good reason: On a specially designed credenza under a wide window sit 11 Larry O’Brien trophies — the centerpieces of the building and the sources of constant motivation — in full view of the courts.
In late August, shortly after the Lakers acquired him in a blockbuster trade with the Washington Wizards, Russell Westbrook became the latest in a long line of stars to make their maiden trip inside.
“I’m so happy that you’re here,” Buss told the 2017 MVP in a moment that was captured for the cable television show, “Backstage: Lakers on Spectrum SportsNet.”
As she launches into what must be an all-too-familiar speech, Buss tells Westbrook about her father, late owner Jerry Buss.
“My dad bought the team in 1979, and his first year of owning the team was Magic [Johnson’s] rookie year and they won a championship that first year. And his goal in buying the Lakers was to someday surpass the Boston Celtics. So we’re now tied with 17 titles …”
“We know what we need to do then,” Westbrook said, jumping in.
“We’re kind of obsessed with 18,” said Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, who had brought Westbrook to see Buss.
That day and those sentiments are a hazy memory as the Lakers limp to the finish line of the regular season with a 31-45 record and an 11th place standing in the Western Conference, trying to claw their way into the last play-in tournament spot. But it’s a reminder this was a team the highest levels of the organization believed was championship-worthy.