If you thought this Magic Johnson story was just going to settle in and not produce any more headlines, it seems that was a mistake. While at the UCLA vs. Oregon men’s basketball game game on Thursday night in Los Angeles, Magic offered more insight into what he ultimately wants out of his new position as “advisor” to Jeanie Buss.
Magic Johnson said he wants to “call the shots’’ for the Los Angeles Lakers, a week after it was announced he has rejoined the team as an adviser to owner Jeannie Buss.
“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.’’
Johnson, the former Lakers great, said the decision about his role rests with Jeannie Buss, whose brother Jim has been in charge of the franchise since their father, Jerry, died in 2013. During the 2013-14 season, Jim Buss said he would step down after three to four years if the franchise was not yet competing for NBA titles again.
Let’s unpack that quote because there’s a lot there.
First, while Magic saying he “wants to call the shots” is clearly the money line there, I think the second part where he again acknowledges that he is (even if just for now) an advisor is just as important. We are not yet even to the All-Star break so making a huge shift in how decisions are made or handing over power in the front office just isn’t going to happen. This isn’t to say Magic won’t have input — I think it’s pretty clear, from all the quotes, that he will — but I don’t think he’s going to usurp the current decision makers and become the “final call” maker tomorrow. Those types of changes need a transition.
Or, said another way, they need to happen after certain members of the current decision making tree either give up some or all of their power. *Cough* Jim Buss *cough*. And, let’s face it, if anything happens on that front it’s not happening until after the season.
But, even if that’s the case, what Magic’s quotes do lay out pretty clearly is that is ideally what he is after. He wants to be the guy who is at the top of that decision making tree; the guy who makes the final determination on the basketball side of the operation. Again, in his own words:
“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.’’
The fact that he’s framed things this way is just another data point that Jim should not feel safe in his position and that this could put into question Kupchak’s job security too. While one angle of saying that “some decisions need to be made” is that keeping Jim in power as the Executive VP of Basketball Operations is also a decision, I think it’s fair to say that keeping things the status quo isn’t typically discussed quite this way. No, I’d argue that you usually talk about making a decision when you’re leaning towards change.
That said, I continue to keep an open mind about all of this. For now, as Magic himself notes, he’s only an advisor. Jim is still the EVP and Mitch is still the GM. Until that changes or we have confirmed intel that Magic’s role in how decisions are made carries more weight, I don’t think we have a choice but to wait and see. Again, though, it seems pretty clear Magic has made his intentions known and that him making a power play seems less like speculation and more like an inevitability.