LOS ANGELES — 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.”
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 in November.
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.”
–Los Angeles Times