Dislike, and worse, of the Los Angeles Lakers comes naturally to fans of the Portland Trail Blazers. But the death on Monday of Jerry Buss, who bought the Lakers in 1979 and built a dynasty, is one time for fans everywhere to express their respect.
Whatever perceived flaws Buss had — and we all have flaws — his Lakers won the right way. And not just because they brought an entertaining style of basketball to the NBA.
Buss succeeded by hiring good people and treating them right. He kept Bill Sharman on the payroll long after the former Laker coach and general manager stepped aside. He kept Walt Hazzard on the payroll after a stroke prevented the former Laker from working as a consultant.
Remembrances of Buss paint a picture of a people-person who enjoyed life. He was, by all accounts, the kind of person any fan would want owning his favorite team.
Bill Dwyer, the longtime Los Angeles Times sports editor and columnist, wrote this: "We live in an era of soulless corporations and heartless management. People are laid off by e-mail or by discovering the lock changed on their office door.
"In Buss' corporation, there was always heart and soul."
Given the injuries to Nicolas Batum's wrist and Wesley Matthews' ankle, the Trail Blazers' fortunes after the All-Star Break are anything but certain. But the Blazers are not a championship contender when healthy, so the medical report should not influence the team's thinking as Thursday's trade deadline approaches.
If the right offer is out there, the Blazers should be ready to deal.
Certainly, J.J. Hickson's days in red and black could be numbered.
But what of LaMarcus Aldridge?
We're not suggesting Aldridge shouldn't be a part of the Blazers' future — just that we hope management is open-minded enough to consider trading L.A.
At 27, Aldridge is just entering his prime. He should be at his best for the next four or five seasons. A tough guy to part with, for sure.
But Blazers fans, and LaMarcus himself, should ask themselves if the team can become a championship threat while Aldridge is in his prime.