With their would-be commander-in-chief officially taking over the New York Knicks, the state of Lakers Nation nervously hovers between DEFCON 2 and DEFCON 1.
But this is no time to panic. It's time to seize the moment.
It's time to bring Jerry West back to the Lakers.
Breathe in. Count. Breathe out.
With the Lakers embarking on a rebuilding job as daunting as any in their illustrious history, there isn't a more trustworthy basketball mind to help direct it than West, the architect of the Lakers' two greatest dynasties.
With one of the greatest sports brands in the universe wobbling about on unsteady legs, who better to prop it up than West, the true face of the franchise?
Breathe in. Count. Breathe out.
Phil Jackson is gone, and whether you agree with his departure or not understand there are valid reasons why the Lakers never turned back to him after he left in 2011.
Namely, the late, great Dr. Jerry Buss didn't want Jackson running his team. Had he, Jackson would be in place at this very moment.
If Lakers fans can't make peace with Jackson now in charge of the Knicks — and not the Lakers — at least take solace in the fact Dr. Buss wanted it this way.
The last card he played before passing on was to create a front-office structure in which daughter Jeanie oversaw the business end and son Jim presided over basketball operations along with long-time general manager Mitch Kupchak.
He didn't do it on a whim, either.
Dr. Buss wasn't a premier poker player — or owner — by being reckless. He was calculating, observant and vigilant. He took the necessary time to assess his son, who was gaining more and more front-office responsibility toward the end of his father's life.
When it came time to decide who would oversee the Lakers' basketball operations department, Dr. Buss decided on his son.
You would think after building one of the great ownership resumes in sports history and doing right by fans for more than three decades, Dr. Buss' instincts would elicit a bit more trust from Lakers Nation. Especially with the Jim Buss and Kupchak dynamic so instrumental in bridging the Lakers from the Shaquille O'Neal/Kobe Bryant dynasty to the Bryant/Pau Gasol championship run.
But fans have short memories.
And with Bryant fading out, the Lakers sitting in last place and Jackson moving on to New York, their anxious eyes turn to Jim Buss, who never got the credit he deserved for the latest championship run and gets all the blame for where the Lakers currently stand.
But back to Jerry West and, just as importantly, Jim and Jeanie Buss because they need to be on the same page on this one:
Whether it's warranted or not, Jim Buss has a major perception issue on his hands.
No matter how much good he's done — or is capable of doing — Lakers fans never will fully respect him in his current role.
He isn't a basketball guy. He's the son of a man who owned a basketball team.
And if his name wasn't Buss, he'd be hard-pressed to get a job in the front office of any team in the NBA, let alone run it.
So if it's reverence he is seeking, he has to understand it never will be achieved as long as he is the man calling the shots in the Lakers' basketball operations office.
But respect will come if he pulled a card from his father's deck by surrounding himself with great basketball minds, let them do their jobs and be the sounding board/final say when presented with ideas.
And who better to turn to than West as the new president, working alongside Kupchak as the Lakers begin a rebuilding job every bit as formidable as the one following the Showtime Era?
West, who is working for the Golden State Warriors, has shown no inclination to come back to the Lakers. Of course, until now there wasn't really a need. So it's not like anyone sat him down to express how much they wanted him back, and they desperately need him now.
And maybe the Lakers look a lot more attractive to him, now that Jackson no longer is in the picture. West always was uncomfortable with Jackson, but with Jackson now with the Knicks, that uneasiness no longer is a concern.
What's in it for West?
He always did enjoy the actual building process of the Lakers, and with a potentially top-five pick looming in next summer's draft and enough salary cap space to sign a max free agent, the Lakers are well-positioned to begin building earnestly.
West will express a million reasons why he isn't interested, not the least of which is the perception he'd be undermining Kupchak, his good friend.
He'll say he doesn't have the energy and the stress would be overwhelming. He'll insist he's enjoying his role with the Warriors and the time it affords him to live a regular life.
His objections will be convincing and compelling. But it's up to the Lakers to change his mind and make him understand they need him one more time to team with Kupchak and map out another Lakers run.
They need to sit him down, ask him for his wisdom and guidance over the next three years and throw him as much money as he wants for his troubles.
Jackson might be gone, but the real face of the Lakers is out there.
And it's time to bring him back.