Magic Johnson sat down with Ben Golliver of the Washington Post for an interview in which the Lakers President of Basketball Operations talked about how to build a team in the modern era.
“The game today is about drafting well, developing your players, and adding free agents or trading for guys,” Johnson said of his approach to team-building in the modern era. “The hardest part has been the fact that we were over the salary cap when I took over. I had to trade a lot of guys I liked, but I had to create the cap space flexibility to be in line to get LeBron James. We were able to do that. Now I have enough cap space to bring in another superstar.”
It’s unclear who Johnson meant when he traded guys that he liked (it wasn’t D’Angelo Russell), but he makes it clear that relationships don’t cloud his mind in the business element of the game.
He also talked about the effect that LeBron James has on team chemistry and how he brings guys together.
“Chemistry doesn’t automatically build,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to bring in guys like LeBron who can make that happen. Our young guys were all together last year, and they really have a close bond. They hang out and tease each other on social media. But I need all 12 guys to come together if we’re going to be successful. LeBron understands how to bring everybody in.”
Magic continued to praise LeBron for his on the court leadership.
“We were losing a lot of close games last year that we just didn’t know how to win,” he said. “With LeBron, we were winning those games. The [young guys] have to go through those experiences. I can’t teach them from here. But LeBron and [Rajon] Rondo can teach them because they’re part of the team. When you’re an executive, it’s hard. You can’t be in there all the time.”
It’s clear from his comments that Magic Johnson cares for the young core that he has established with the Lakers, but he also isn’t afraid to sever ties if it is in the best interest of the team. I’m not saying that’s a sign of things to come, but maybe hold off on buying your favorite young Lakers’ jersey.