Lakers owner Jerry Buss hospitalized

Lakers owner Jerry Buss has an undisclosed form of cancer and is in
the intensive care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to
several people familiar with the situation.

“He’s doing fine,”
Buss’ son Jim told The Times in a brief interview Thursday. “We just
aren’t going to make any comments on it. We’ve been dealing with this.”

Buss, 80, has not attended any games this season after being a fixture in his
luxury suite halfway up the arena behind the Lakers’ bench. He
maintained an extremely low public profile last year, emerging briefly
to release a complimentary statement about Derek Fisher when the
longtime Lakers guard was traded in a rare cost-cutting move in March.

Kobe
Bryant, Pau Gasol, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson and Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar have visited Buss at various stages since finding out about
his condition, which was diagnosed at an unknown point last year.

Said
O’Neal on Twitter on Thursday: “Dr. Jerry Buss, thinking about u &
wish I could be there, get well soon. I cant wait 2 see u on 4/2/13
#LoveYou #Lakers.”

O’Neal is having his Lakers jersey retired April 2 at Staples Center.

Buss
has been in the hospital numerous times the last two years. He
underwent an undisclosed surgery last August and was admitted a month
earlier for what the team called dehydration. He was also hospitalized
in December 2011 for blood clots in his leg caused by excessive travel,
according to the team.

Over the years, Buss has gradually handed
more power to his daughter Jeanie, in charge of the business side of the
team, and Jim, who oversees basketball operations.

Before his most recent medical issues, Buss continued to take part in decision making for the Lakers.

Buss
weighed in on the hiring of Coach Mike D’Antoni inNovember and, a few
months before that, was eager to meet Dwight Howard and Steve Nash,
high-profile Lakers additions who visited him separately after being
acquired.

A former Lakers player was saddened by news of Buss’ declining health.

“I
just know how much he loved the game,” said Clippers forward Lamar
Odom, who won two championships in seven years with the Lakers. “I know
how much he put into it, whether it was traveling with us or just his
effort that he put into us winning. He was the best. He was always close
to his team and his players. It’s tough to hear about that.”

Buss
received a doctorate in physical chemistry from USC, but it was a
$1,000 investment in a Los Angeles apartment building that ultimately
sparked a career in real-estate investment.

In 1979, Buss bought
the Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke, along with the Forum, the NHL’s Kings
(which he later sold), and a ranch in the Sierra Nevada for a total of
$67.5 million.

The Lakers franchise, buoyed by a lucrative TV deal
with Time Warner Cable, was recently valued at $1 billion by Forbes
magazine. Only one other NBA franchise, the New York Knicks, was deemed
more valuable.

The Lakers have won 10 NBA championships since Buss purchased the team and 16 overall, one behind the Boston Celtics.

They
are continually among the top-spending teams in player salary, and this
season is no different. They have a $100-million payroll, the NBA’s
highest, and face luxury-tax penalties of another $30 million in an
overwhelmingly disappointing season so far.

“When it comes down to
it, Dr. Buss is a competitor,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak
said when Howard was acquired in a four-team trade in August. “And when
it comes down to a decision about making a couple of dollars or a
million dollars or $10 million or putting another banner up, he can’t
help himself. He chooses to go for the banner.”

-Mike Bresnahan and Melissa Rohlin