In a couple of years, we may look back on this hire thinking where the Lakers went wrong or how foolish we were for overreacting. Time will tell how this signing affected the Lakers future, but all signs point to it being potential dangerous.
On February 2th, the Lakers announced via press release that Magic Johnson will be taking a “team advisor” role for the Lakers officially. This was what they had to say on what Magic Johnson’s duties will be:
“Johnson’s duties will include, but not be limited to, advising ownership on all business and basketball matters, collaborating with coaches, evaluating and mentoring players, assessing future franchise needs, and helping ownership to determine the best path for growth and success.”
Magic has quite the amount of responsibility with the Lakers now and he feels that he is ready to do this. He can and will be working with the front office and the coaches. A lot of responsibilities that Magic will be touching on are similar to what Jim Buss does for the Lakers. The most alarming and most talked about tidbit from this press release was this:
“Johnson will spend time at Lakers offices in El Segundo and will report directly to Jeanie Buss.”
Johnson is going to be talking directly to Jeanie and only has to answer to her. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak can be left in the dark on what they talk about. This was something that caught my eye and it was something that gave me some cause to pause. A couple hours later, Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report dropped a bombshell piece that might of confirmed the worst is coming:
“The coming months will determine, according to NBA sources, whether Johnson is part of a democracy expected to replace Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, or if Johnson singularly replaces Buss in charge of Lakers basketball operations—regardless of the general manager’s name.”
Although this is a Kevin Ding thing, it makes the most sense with the hire.
There has been increased talk about letting Mitch and Jim go. The front office has really struggled to do anything in free agency and the few signing they have made are not panning out as they expected.
Another criticism has been their inability to make any moves as far as trades. Veterans like Lou Williams and Nick Young have been playing great basketball all year and there is no excuse for why they haven’t been traded. There has to be a team out there in need of scoring or shooting and that team can offer a first round pick or a lottery prospect that has low stock at the moment. Their stubbornness to stand pat and not deal players has been wearing on many fans and writers to a point where a front office change doesn’t appear to be all bad. Apart from the drafting (which has been amazing), they haven’t been able to do much else.
The hope was that the team would promote Ryan West or hire some other up and coming assistant manager that is well versed in analytics and has a much more modern approach to the NBA.
Listening to the Magic Johnson interview on Spectrum SportsNet just confirmed my fears on having Magic’s input around the Lakers. Here is where he thinks the Lakers are right now:
“We’re a superstar away from competing against both of teams [Golden State , San Antonio]. One guy changes our landscape, because we have everything we need now , except that one guy to make everyone better……. If I felt like we were far away and it was going to be a waste of time for me, I wouldn’t be here…]”
The fact that Magic feels the Lakers are that close to be contenders is laughable. He has not been watching the Lakers this is year if he had the nerve t0 say that. There was some fan-appeasing lines being spouted here, but this approach is what has the Lakers in this hole. Their star-chasing mentality has caused them to lose out on other role players that would help mold the roster into a better shape than it is now. In this interview, Magic also touched on what exactly his role will be for the Lakers:
“Jim Buss is calling the shots, and I want him to understand that, I’m just here to lend advice. I explained that to Mitch Kupchak. Mitch is wonderful, we’re going to have a 2-3 hour meeting to talk about the strategy and where they think we’re headed……]”
This quote made it sound like this signing was simply a PR move to make some good press and give Laker fans something to talk about apart from the struggling team. In case anyone needs more proof that Magic will have a legitimate voice in the organization:
Regarding Lakers free agency, Magic Johnson also told @SpectrumSN that he wants to “be in the room” & “play a role” during pitches.
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) February 3, 2017
Magic Johnson will be in meetings during free agency when he pitches to other free agents. Even if he never receives a higher position of power, he will have a voice that whoever does replace Mitch and Jim will have to listen to.
Saying that there is danger in this move may sound like an overreaction, but it is actually justifiable. This move was done without Jim Buss having any knowledge of the hiring as Kevin Ding adds:
“Jim, meanwhile, knew nothing about Jeanie’s plans to bring Johnson aboard until shortly before the public announcement.”
This was a Jeanie Buss move and her dipping her toe into the pool of basketball operations. If Jim was truly uninformed before it happened, then the Magic taking over Jim scenario becomes all the more likely. This is a move that makes no sense unless it is for that. Magic provides little to no possible mentor-ship that will actually translate to the basketball court. His business expertise could be useful, but even that alone isn’t enough to bring him up to this big of a role.
This move by Jeanie is something that does not lack imagination. It is one made in a dream world where Magic Johnson, Laker for life, brings the Lakers back to the promise land. Jeanie dreamt of this and then made it happen. It is a move that appears to be backwards and reaches back into the well of ShowTime. Since it turned out so well with Byron Scott why not do it again?
All and all, only time can tell what this move does for the Lakers and whether it is something that has no effect or a major impact. Magic’s surprising reliance on narratives may be troublesome for the Lakers. All that we can do now is pray that the move is nothing more then a minor thing for the Lakers’ sake.