Unbelievable: Lakers Player Collapses Due to…

Winning Time: How bad did things get with the Lakers after 1981 playoff collapse?

For the most part, we will be drawing from Jeff Pearlman’s book “Showtime: MAGIC, KAREEM, RILEY, AND THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS DYNASTY OF THE 1980S” to fact-check or expand on some of the major and important plot points in each week’s episode of season two of HBO’s “Winning Time.”

Los Angeles Lakers

When a situation collapses as catastrophically as the Lakers did during the 1981 playoffs, it takes an autopsy to determine the cause of the breakdown. Dr. Jerry Buss studied the Lakers in episode three of “Winning Time,” trying to find out how to save face once more.
This episode included a thorough examination of Larry Bird as well. Even so, we won’t be verifying any of the information concerning him.

leaping back

As most Lakers supporters are aware, Dr. Buss was not a fan of losing, and this time was no different. The conclusion drawn from Dr. Buss’ analysis of the Lakers was that Paul Westhead was under pressure to win the next season, even if it wasn’t nearly depicted as much in the episode.
In his book, “The Speed Game,” Westhead spoke of a late-night phone call he received from Dr. Buss that set the table during a family vacation in Hawaii.

Kupchak shows up

In the modern era, Mitch Kupchak is credited with managing the Lakers during their prosperous periods in the 2000s and 2010s. However, he was also a potential big man who was limited by injuries throughout his NBA career in the 1970s and 1980s.
As Pearlman noted in his book, he made some dubious eating decisions, just like every other young person in the world:

The main reason for the hold-up with Kupchak was money, but Westhead managed to persuade Buss to close the deal—albeit at a price. If Westhead had previously experienced any pressure to succeed, that pressure was intensified following this transaction.

From the book of Pearlman:

Kupchak was a great addition, but Sharman and West weren’t willing to pay $800,000 a year for him. Kupchak had averaged 12.5 points and 7 rebounds off the bench the previous season, so the deal was not only excessively hefty for a reserve player, but it would also undoubtedly cause a few Lakers to feel suddenly underpaid and undervalued. But Buss should relocate, Westhead insisted, confident that he would be the perfect foil for Abdul-Jabbar.

To say the deal was not popular around the league would be an understatement. It was almost universally panned. Among those to not like the deal? Jim Chones.

In those days, even in the era of free agency, teams still had to send compensation to the team losing the free agent. So the Lakers did have to trade Chones, among other players and picks, to Washington for Kupchak.

And the scene with Chones in the Lakers offices? There wasn’t much exaggeration there, as he told HBO.

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