Last week, CBS Sports' Ken Berger introduced us to an elusive Lakers scout named "Chaz," who apparently was hired by the team because of his buddy-buddy relationship with Jim Buss, the oft-criticized son of Lakers owner Jerry Buss. "A good guy," Berger quoted one NBA front office employee as saying about Chaz, and "great bartender." For a team that just decimated its own coaching staff in spite of a new potential $3 billion television deal, this was hardly the most warming news for its fans, while NBA followers on Twitter cackled far and wide about its newest meme named "Chaz."
A week later, longtime go-to Lakers scribe Roland Lazenby is dishing on HoopsHype about the man who is helping guide the Lakers through their post-Phil Jackson era. And though Chaz (er, "Charles Osbourne") wouldn't agree to speak with Roland on record, by all accounts Chaz is a nice guy that is working very hard as one-third of the scouting staff (the other two are populated by Buss sons) of the league's most profitable franchise.
And that's about it. Whoa, boy. Enjoy Kobe Bryant and those two fantastic 7-footers while you can, Laker fans, because the next batch of acquisitions may have Buss-stank all over it.
Here's part of Lazenby's tactful account at HoopsHype, just one take from a column you need to read:
But the friend points out that Chaz, who lives in San Diego and commutes to Lakers offices, is working really hard to become an excellent scout.
Chaz explained to friends that he's really busy this year because Jim Buss laid off the scouting staff last summer that had produced so much Lakers success over the years. Those layoffs included Ronnie Lester, the trusted Lakers executive who had spent years helping to populate the roster with top talent.
Because of the layoffs, Chaz tells friends he's seen more than 50 college games and works hard at sitting courtside and filling in the scouting reports for the Lakers.
Lazenby goes on to point out that the Lakers have defended shifting most of their focus onto the college game because the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement makes eschewing expensive veterans a necessary evil, and that grabbing expert college players is at a premium in this era.
And they're also full of it. As is often the case when Jim Buss is laying things down.
In his column, Lazenby quotes a 14-year Sports Illustrated piece on Jeanie Buss that I had forgotten all about, which includes this unfortunate line of thinking from Jim Buss that we're guessing (based on last summer's firings) he hasn't strayed too far from:
Yet Jimmy thinks scouting is vastly overrated. "Evaluating basketball talent is not too difficult," he says. "If you grabbed 10 fans out of a bar and asked them to rate prospects, their opinions would be pretty much identical to those of the pro scouts."
That comment mystifies [then-GM Jerry] West. "I have great admiration for what our scouts do," he says. "If the job is so easy, then why do some teams always have more success than others?"
That's just the tip of the iceberg, Mr. West. Where to start, when a man thinks that a random sample of 10 fans out of a sports bar could scout for an NBA team? Well, according to Jim Buss, you hire one with a background in horse racing to help navigate one of the proudest, most profitable, and successful NBA franchises of the last 32 years.
(Seriously, go to a sports bar for the TNT games tonight. Yell "BASE-YEAR COMPENSATION!" out loud. See if anyone knows what you're talking about. Mention rebound rate, or pace-adjusted stats. Say the name "Lavoy Allen," and see if someone points you to the jukebox. Ask someone to name each of the teams in the Southeast Division. You'll be thrown out, but you'll also prove Jim Buss wrong.)
Though Lazenby points to Chaz's willingness to learn and work, this entire setup is astonishing. This Lakers group can win a championship this year. If Kobe can continue to play this brilliantly through pain next season, they'll have yet another chance assuming some tinkering is involved. This is what the team needs -- tinkering with NBA vets.
Not college players from the lower rungs of the first round who will help in their second year. Help now. Help with cap navigation between now and the March 15 trade deadline. Help from someone who watched Wednesday night's Charlotte/Detroit game who knows what he or she is talking about. Help with a top-heavy team that could still get it done if it just deigned to pay some of the luxury tax cash they saved after trading Lamar Odom for absolutely nothing last December.
Over the last 30-plus years, Lakers fans have been blessed with the presence of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. They've won 10 rings over that span. Laker fans have been given so, so much.
And yet they deserve better. Chaz Osbourne might be a swell hang and a hard worker, but this is a joke. It's hardly his fault, but that doesn't mean we should shirk from criticizing what could be a messy end to a lineup that deserves a real front office behind them.