The Magic Johnson train is already flying off the rails. Last week, it was announced that the former Lakers’ star point guard would be rejoining the organization as an adviser in the front office. He was hired by Lakers’ president and part-owner Jeanie Buss.
Magic’s hiring raised some eyebrows from the start. His public feud with Lakers’ vice president Jim Buss was well-known and combined with Buss’ self-imposed deadline to turn the Lakers into contenders, the move was seen as a stepping stool for Jeanie to move forward with overhauling the entire front office.
That worry (or excitement depending on what you think of Jim and general manager Mitch Kupchak’s resume as the chief basketball decision makers) may have been validated by Magic days after being fired.
In an interview with Josh Peter of USA TODAY Sports, Johnson revealed that his end goal is to “call the shots” in L.A.
“Working to call the shots, because it only works that way,’’ Johnson told USA TODAY Sports when asked what he hopes his role with the franchise will be. “Right now I’m advising. I get that. But at the end of the day, then we all got to come together and somebody’s got to say, ‘I’m making the final call,’ all right? And who’s that going to be?
“So, we’ll see what happens.’’
To be clear, Johnson didn’t give any clear indication of whether that would mean Buss and Kupchak would necessarily step down from their current roles. But it’s not entirely difficult to draw those conclusions from Johnson’s quotes and that might be a terrifying thought.
Johnson later said that his role with the team may be finalized by the end of the season as he looks to “go to school” about the finer details of management decisions, such as the CBA.
“Look, Jim knows where we are, Jeannie knows where we are, as a franchise, and so some decisions have to be made,’’ Johnson said, adding that he thinks his role will be determined by the end of the season. “I may only be in this role for a short term, I may be here for a long time. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I can’t tell you that right now.’’
So here’s where we stand. Magic is intent on becoming the lead decision-maker in basketball operations. Magic also has no experience in such a role and will be inheriting a franchise finally ready to make some steps forward into competing after several years of accumulating draft picks and young players.
Perhaps the most scary part of this whole thing is that Johnson doesn’t even know how long his commitment to the Lakers is. Whether that means he would jump ship immediately if he finds he is way in over his head or if he would only do so after making devastating decisions is a risk that the Lakers, and in particular Jeanie, seem to be willing to take.
Magic Johnson’s arrival as an adviser seemed promising in many ways. After all, he is one of the greatest players in franchise history and a valuable brand marketer and mentor. But right now, the decision seems to be another in a long line of archaic ones made by the Lakers’ franchise: opting for team loyalty even in the face of a lack of experience and expertise. Perhaps that can lead to some positivity in the form of a return from Jerry West, but recent history has shown us that “knowing what it means to be a Laker” has not often led to knowing how to ably accomplish a job.
It may be too soon to speculate on what exactly will happen going forward. But just one week into Magic’s employment, it appears as though the Lakers are wandering into a dark path that will be immensely difficult to escape.