The NBA Combine has officially begun and with that executives and coaches from across the league are in Chicago to get a closer look at the talent of the future. That includes the Lakers’ decision making trio of Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka, and Luke Walton who will observe and likely meet with both top prospects and later-in-the-draft talents alike due to their potential to land near the top of the lottery while also possessing Houston’s 28th pick overall.
The draft, though, isn’t the only thing Lakers’ observers are interested in. The team’s entire summer plan offers intrigue and, when given the chance to speak with him during their combine coverage, ESPN asked Magic about potential scenarios this summer. Magic’s answer might surprise you:
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.
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.
One of the under-discussed aspects of Magic’s hire, however, is what might happen to Mitch Kupchak. I will get this out of the way up front — I like Mitch. I think, in the aggregate, he’s been good at his job as General Manager. I think he has a good eye for talent and roster construction while also being quite good at saying a lot without saying anything at all (which is important for a guy in his position when speaking publicly or making on the record comments).
That said, how I feel about Kupchak doesn’t matter. What does matter is how Jeanie Buss and, now that he’s on board in his new role, Magic feels about him. And, according to a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, their opinions may not be as clear cut as mine:
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.
In the newest chapter of the Magic Johnson-Lakers Management relationship saga, Magic told reporters from the LA Times that he’s willing to help the Lakers in their pursuit of free agents this summer.
This comes exactly one week after Magic vowed via Twitter that he’d stop criticizing the purple (blue) and gold. Previously, Magic had been harshly critical of Mike D’Antoni’s rotation and suggested that Jim Buss needs help running the organization.
Magic is a valuable asset to the Lakers if he’s truly invested in helping them recruit. He’s an all-time great (probably top 5 ever), and is the perfect example of an NBA player parlaying his superstar status into a multitude business ventures. He’ll tell free-agent targets that Los Angeles is the perfect place for them because of the franchise’s commitment to winning as well as the vast opportunities that Los Angeles offers.
Let’s hope Kevin Love looks up to Magic Johnson as much as the rest of us do.
Terry Teagle hit a turnaround jumper from the right baseline and became the answer to a trivia question. It was Teagle’s jumper that propelled Magic Johnson past Oscar Robertson as the all-time assist leader at 9,888 total assists. Since that fateful day in 1991, that number has been passed multiple times and Magic no longer holds the all-time record. That honor goes to John Stockton. Magic, meanwhile, sits 5th on the all-time list behind Stock, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Mark Jackson.
But where Magic sits on the all time list now doesn’t matter much. He was easily the best passer many people (including me) ever saw. Just as some scorers have every type of shot imaginable in their arsenal, Magic could throw any type of pass. He hit players in stride streaking to the hoop and led them to the open spot. He rocketed one handed bullet passes, scooped underhanded outlet passes, and bounced passes through traffic. He saw things other players didn’t and put the ball into places that didn’t seem possible. He made his teammates better by making the game easier for them.
That April night started with Magic needing 9 assists to overtake the Big O. Magic got to 9 before the first half was over and did so in classic Magic form. He ran the break, directed the half court offense, accepted double teams, and just continued to hit the open man. He made the complex play just as easy as the simple one and blended the spectacular with the routine.
Some players are once in a generation talents. Magic, though, was a once in a lifetime one. I simply don’t believe we’ll ever see another like him.
Wow. The power of youtube brings us Magic Johnson (and his fantastic afro) in his high school championship game, dominating the action just as he did at Michigan State and later with the Lakers. His talent is on full display in the clip above — his ability to finish inside, hit his little jumper, and, of course, his fantastic floor vision.
The clip above also shows a great game unfold with some uncanny shotmaking, including a shot from the team Magic is facing that if I (or one of my teammates) would have made in a high school game would have been celebrated with the same jubilation. Looked like a pretty amazing game.
In any event, enjoy the video. As you can see, Magic was always a one of a kind player with a unique set of skills. He truly looked like a man amongst boys on some of those plays.