Archives For Laker News

After firing Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak and elevating Magic Johnson from “advisor” to President of Basketball Operations, the Lakers are reportedly close to filling their vacant GM position.

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In a day which saw the Lakers elevate Magic Johnson to President of Basketball Operations while removing Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak from their respective front office positions, more change is afoot. The team has reportedly traded Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets.

Per David Aldridge, the pick the Lakers are receiving from the Rockets is not protected in any way, so the team will have at least one draft pick in the upcoming draft with a possibility of still retaining their own selection should it fall in the top 3. The Lakers have reportedly been insisting on getting a 1st rounder in exchange for Williams, and my guess is that the lack of protections probably swayed them towards the Rockets considering there was also interest from the Jazz and Wizards.

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In a stunning move to shake up their front office, the Lakers announced Tuesday morning that they have cleaned house of their top two basketball decision makers and elevated Magic Johnson from “advisor” to Jeanie Buss to the President of Basketball Operations. From the team’s press release:

Los Angeles Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss announced today that the team has named Earvin “Magic” Johnson as President of Basketball Operations. In addition, General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately. Furthermore, Jim Buss will no longer hold his role as Lakers Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.

“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss said. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

While the move itself should not inspire surprise, the timing of it certainly should. The NBA Trade deadline is only two days away and the team just fired their GM and relieved the final say in basketball decisions. Just Sunday night there were reports that the Lakers were in conversations to acquire DeMarcus Cousins (before he was dealt to the Pelicans) and there have been ongoing rumors about the team being in active discussions about trading Lou Williams in advance of Thursday. Now the people who were on those calls and negotiating compensation are now no longer employed by the team! I am almost speechless.

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Just as he showed as a player during the Showtime Era, Magic Johnson is proving to be very comfortable in the spotlight after being brought on as an advisor to Jeanie Buss.

Since his hiring was announced only 12 days ago, Magic has made an appearance with the Lakers’ TV partner for an interview, he’s made on the record comments to USA today saying he wants to “call the shots”, he (or someone close to him) sourced comments to ESPN which implicated Mitch Kupchak, he’s gone on CBS radio, and today he did an interview with Hannah Storm on ESPN.

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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.

Josh Peter at USA Today has the story:

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.

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Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss met with Hall of Famer and former Lakers point guard Magic Johnson on Tuesday night, sources with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN.

The exact nature of the meeting was not immediately clear, but sources said Buss has been soliciting opinions on the direction the franchise should take moving forward, after three straight losing seasons and possibly a fourth, with the Lakers already having lost 31 games this season.

The above is from a piece from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne back in mid January. As Shelburne noted (and I have heard similar things), Jeanie Buss has been talking to folks about the direction of the Lakers and Magic, who is “like a brother” to her, is a natural sounding board for such discussions.

Well, it turns out, that discussion may have been more than just a friendly conversation and more like a precursor to what will now be a true working relationship. Because today it was announced that the Lakers have hired Magic to an advisory position. From the team’s press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers today announced that Earvin “Magic” Johnson will return to the Lakers to assist Jeanie Buss in all areas of basketball and business as an advisor…

…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. Johnson will spend time at Lakers offices in El Segundo and will report directly to Jeanie Buss.

That sound you hear is Jim Buss’ job security taking nose dive.

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Just as they did for the Team USA Select Team, the Lakers’ most recent lottery selections will be teammates in the Rising Stars Challenge held during All-Star weekend in New Orleans:

The league will again make the format of this game “USA vs. the World”, so sophomore Russell and rookie Ingram will be on the same roster facing off against the likes of Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid, and Emanuel Mudiay among others.

 

This is a nice honor for both players. Every year there seem to be guys left off — last year, for example, Julius Randle did not play in this game even though he’s a former lottery pick who has a high upside — who have a good argument to make the team. This year, one might even argue that Ingram might not deserve to play in this game, regardless of his draft status. I’d counter with his play in the last 15 games as an example of why he should be there, but he made it so no need. Ha.

Anyway, I like any environment where the team’s young guys get exposed to more talent and good coaching. This game won’t be “serious” nor will it count for anything, but just to have these guys invited, seeing what the all-star experience is for the guys who make the big game, and getting enough of a taste to (hopefully) continue to inspire their work ethic to some day get there themselves is a nice carrot for them.

In a bit of a twist I certainly did not see coming, the Lakers have worked out former Rockets big man Donatas Motiejunas. From ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne:

The Los Angeles Lakers have auditioned free-agent big man Donatas Motiejunas within the past week, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN that the Lakers brought Motiejunas in before Christmas to work out in front of the front office and coaching staff, but it remains unclear whether they’ll go ahead with signing the former first-round pick.

Apparently, the hold up in potentially offering Montiejunas a contract has to do with the current depth in the front court and how that might disrupt current roles:

But sources said the Lakers are weighing whether there are enough minutes to go around, with the blossoming Julius Randle and Tarik Black playing the bulk of the frontcourt minutes while Nance is out.

The fact that the Lakers are still kicking the tires on available players and looking to add talent is a good thing. Regardless of how much they like the construction of the current team, adding talented players who fit the team’s scheme should always be on the table — and Montiejunas certainly fits that description.

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