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.
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.
new rr says
Magic Johnson is my all-time favorite player, and I think it is time for Jim Buss to go. But making Magic the final decision-maker in basketball ops would be an exceptionally bad idea. Magic has not worked as a scout, or as an assistant GM, or a player personnel guy. I very much doubt that he is clued in to international ball or analytics, and he likes to talk and Tweet too much for that kind of gig.
Charlotte is just a middle-of-the pack squad, but they have been run better since Michael Jordan just became an owner and let other guys run basketball ops.
I have no problem with Magic consulting, and I am in favor of his being involved with the Lakers. But the Lakers need a trained FO guy to actually run the team.
Renato Afonso says
new rr yep.
I believe that the Lakers will have a new VP and General Manager. No more Jimmy; no more Mitch.
Making that transition happen really requires Magic–and maybe Jerry West–as consultants to Jeannie. I don’t believe that Magic should hold either of those positions, but should play a strong role in choosing and supporting the new management.
You can’t handle all that power to Magic alone. Im really concerned with that “only a superstar away” quote. He can be part of the decision making not THE decision maker. You know what this could end up loke? Isaiah Thomas Knicks. *shudder*
This is putting a face on what a post Jim/Mitch era might look like and it isn’t pretty.
John Citizen says
Mitch and Jim is as good as gone. The contracts of Deng and Mozgov were really really bad. the problem is, i dont think Magic is any better.
They need a smart guy to come manage the team. Scouting department did great job though, must stay.
John Citizen says
It sound like one of those ship mutiny scene where Jeani, kobe, J west and magic side by side making a statement about laker future followed by hiring Jerry west son as manager.
As the camera was panning Magic Johnson last
night at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, he can be seen gesturing on Lonzo Ball’s
shooting technique; and by the way, it was a 30-foot swish in the closing minutes
of the game versus Oregon’s Ducks. I’m not a mind reader, but you can see
the interest in magic’s eyes, lonzo ball will bring a lot to the lakers next
Magic is and always will be a take charge kind
of guy. when he’s motivated, nothing will stand in his way.
Literally, Jeanie has placed Magic in charge/advisor as lord high executioner. If he could, he would do it today, right now, while
people are still in bed.
Word to magic: make sure you have Jerry
West as consultant first and foremost. Let him call the shots; I
mean let him consult as to who the next vp in charge of basketball operations
should be. you can advise and jerry consult as to who the general
manger should be; whether it’s mitch kupchak or someone else. the
important thing is the bad luck factor in all this has got to go; sooner rather
than later. Chances are we can still have a 30-win season if sooner
rather than later happens now.
we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take
Happy Friday everyone.
I hate to say it but he’s a Laker Great but he was a bad coach and he isn’t the most eloquent individual. I’m afraid that the game has passed him bye.
Hopefully Logo will be back in the fold sooner than later.
Clay Bertrand says
Just when you thought it was safe to open the Sports Page……………..
Now we got Vlade 2.0 on our Hands here now???????????
Consult. Be the FA Closer. Contribute knowledge across the board. But NO MAGIC, you are NOT calling the shots. You have just started reading the CBA?????? And you wanna call the SHOTS??????!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Jesus……….
One thing SHOT CALLERS do NOT do, is tell the MEDIA they want to CALL THE SHOTS!!!!!!!!!! I know that social media has changed the way we communicate. But Magic needs to start ACTING like a Laker FO person and keep his damn mouth shut!!!!
The BEST guys, you never hear of and rarely see.
At least when Mitch open’s his mouth we KNOW we are getting NOTHING from him. Magic the Entertainer, the ESPN Talking Head needs to recognize his new position and give the media some lip service.
Don’t use the media to get your point across to your players or colleagues Magic!!!! That’s low hanging fruit!!!!! Look at Phil Jackson’s Tweeting FIASCO!!!!!! Hows that GOINK????!?!!?!?!!
Maybe we need Sam Hinkie to come in here and be Belichick……. Getting a second chance with the knowledge of what didn’t work for him the first time and then THRIVING.
” Last thing: you can be bugged out by Magic angling for power AND still be a guy would be perfectly content to see Jim step away”.
Perfect. end of story.
_ Robert _ says
“perfectly content to see Jim step away”: Well I think everyone knows I have felt this way for 4 years (what can I say – I was ahead of the times). And “step away” is correct. He does not even need to be replaced. Plenty of teams have an owner and a GM. The President/VP job is a relatively recent thing and it is not a requirement.
Magic: He is right – there needs to a Final decision maker. Right now that is Jim and that needs to change. Magic is not ideal but he is different than Jim so I am in favor. GM by committee (Jim, Mitch, Magic, Jerry, Ryan, etc) will not work very well and will make us seem disorganized.
West: He is not available until 07/01. So are we going to not send any signals or have any backroom discussions, just to make sure we follow all of the Commissioner’s rules? So not only did we receive a VETO, but we ended up being paranoid of driving 5 miles per hour over the speed limit for fear of further VETO and punishment.
Ugh. I can’t imagine that anybody who thinks Jim is an incompetent who only has his job because of nepotism is going to find Magic to be an improvement. If Jerry West is seriously an option for the future just hold onto Jim until West is ready; Magic is not the solution to any of our problems.
_ Robert _ says
MT87: I would love to see Jerry West brought in as a consultant at minimum. Magic is already here like it or not. The worst case scenario is that we keep everyone, add Jerry and have a parliamentary GM system, with no Prime Minister.
” I can’t imagine that anybody who thinks Jim is an incompetent who only has his job because of nepotism is going to find Magic to be an improvement. ” Anything but where we are now. We have tried this for 4 years and that is enough. As I stated he is not ideal, but he is something different. I would love for us to get a yet to be discovered RC Buford in the making, but short of that any change is good.
And for the record, I would be fine with Jerry and Magic being “consultants”, with Mitch being the Final decision maker (grooming Ryan).
_ Robert _ I don’t disagree that he will be different but isn’t the goal to be better than we are and not merely different? Hell, make me GM and things will be different. In my mind things could actually be run much much worse than they have been. Nothing in Magic’s resume leads me to believe that he would be an improvement on Jim Buss and I am wary of the impact that breaking continuity could have if we aren’t bringing in someone who is a clear-cut upgrade. I think we can agree that Magic calling the shots in any capacity is a gamble that the Lakers may very well lose. Is gambling on Magic really the best choice to make here?
_ Robert _ says
MT: I will take you over Jim as well : ) Although rr is already my GM.
To be clear again – I do not want Magic to be the top guy. I want him to be a consultant only. However having him as the top guy is better than keeping Jim and having GM by committee.
“Is gambling on Magic really the best choice to make here? ” No but it is better than the dictionary definition of insanity (repeating the same thing year after year and hoping for different results).
“I think he is only even in the picture because of politics. ” Agreed – the politics is being caused by the nepotism and infighting. Until that is eliminated we are rotten at our core.
_ Robert _ Fair points all. At the end of the day the Buss children need to sort themselves out. Their self-generated drama is consistently the largest barrier to the long-term success of the team. I guess my fear is that bringing in Magic is more a process of their drama than a serious attempt to improve the team. Whatever role Magic gets I sincerely hope it works out and the team finds a clear and unified front for the future.
Still R says
This is a train wreck.
Magic has no filter. I wonder if his wishes were discussed with Jeannie, and if not,what she thinks of these comments.
LT Mitchell says
I am on the fence with Magic. I would much prefer Jerry West as president coupled with a creative, intelligent and analytical GM from outside the organization. Magic’s lack of experience and lack of knowledge when it comes to the CBA, analytics, etc. are concerning, but there are reasons to believe that he could be successful as a basketball executive for the Lakers:
1. Magic may not have any experience, but this man is the definition of a ‘winner’….from high school to college to the NBA. He knew very little about business when he started out, but he learned, worked hard and built a $700M empire. He helped turn around the Dodgers, and heck, even the Sparks won the championship (Magic was part of the group that bought the Sparks in 2014). This man has the Midas Touch! (According to Merriam Webster, the opposite of the Midas touch is the Jimbo touch). For those bringing up Magic’s failure as a coach…. he coached 16 games. That’s too small a sample size. To those bringing up his failed talk show…..OK, I got nothing….that show was a disaster…but hey, nobody bats 1.000.
2. Jimbo’s replacement has to be able to stand up to Jimbo. We already witnessed Jimbo trying welch on his promise to step down…..and I would not be surprised if this weasel tried to keep some of his influence over basketball decisions as the owner. For that reason (among others), I would not advocate Jimbo’s puppet, Mitch, as his replacement. Magic, as we’ve seen in the past, can stand up to Jimbo.
3. He could be an asset when it comes to recruiting free agents. I don’t think the Bazemores and Batums of the league will deny the Lakers a meeting if Magic is an exec.
Like most of us, I am on board with Jeanie bring Magic on board to a) verify that things, regarding the team, are as bad as they appear to be and b) to give her some gravitas when she pulls the trigger on Jim and Mitch.
The assumption all along was that Jeanie would then throw open the Lakers’ check book for Bob Meyers, Sam Presti, etc. and let them run the team. Who wouldn’t say ‘yes’ to bringing a young, rock star GM to get the Lakers back on track?
Magic’s comments could be support of that vision. The team does need a strong central voice making decisions. The nightmare scenario is that the voice Magic was referencing was his own. Jeanie is on record as saying she knows nothing about player personnel. I always took that comment with a grain of salt because it has seemingly been said about the division of labor between her and Jim. What better way to stay out of the dumpster fire Jim has created than by saying you don’t know anything about that side of things.
But what if Jeanie really doesn’t know anything about that side of the business/player personnel? What if she thinks Magic is not only cover for cleaning out Jim/Mitch but the solution to the FO problem?
I am still hoping that Jeanie will look through the front windshield and hire smart folks from the outside (yes bring Jerry West in as a consultant and have Magic as an adviser). Hiring Magic as a centerpiece as the replacement for Jim/Mitch is a rear view mirror approach which has not served the franchise well of late.
Biggest problem in Lakerland has been the power vacuum created by Dr. Buss’ passing. It wasn’t surprising because it happens to so many family-owned businesses that get passed on to the children. Unfortunately for the fans, we have to deal with the consequences. This is why I have been more forgiving of Mitch because I think he’s had to deal with Jim’s and Jeannie’s agendas and now maybe Magic’s too.
If Magic wants to play an owners role, then that’s ok, I guess, although that seems like a battle among the Buss kids that will have an some effect on bball decisions. My most optimistic scenario is that he’s learned some things about running a professional sports team while he’s been with the Dodgers. That does not include appointing former players to jobs that they have no experience in.
While it’s nice to see the FB&G; Best and Brightest don’t apply the same selective hagiography to Magic Johnson as many Lakers fans do, it still seems to manifest with respect to Jerry West and [insert name of “hot” GM candidate here].
Unless someone can explain PRECISELY what [insert name of person preferred to Jim/Mitch here] would have done that Jim/Mitch did not, the furor to get rid of them is just change for change’s sake.
Here’s an idea: let’s build a time machine and bring 2011 Mitch/Jim in as VP/GM. Back then, they were geniuses who held fast against Kobe’s trade demands, drafted Andrew Bynum, fleeced Memphis (recently run by never-does-anything-wrong-ever, according to his fans, Jerry West) for Pau Gasol, etc.), leading to 3 straight Finals appearances and two NBA titles).
Apparently, in the last six years, those geniuses have turned into idiots and hence need to be replaced. Funny how that works.
Clay Bertrand says
“Apparently, in the last six years, those geniuses have turned into idiots and hence need to be replaced. Funny how that works.”
Three Words and some Numbers:
Deng, Mozgov, $134 MILLION
I see where you are coming from to a degree but there is nothing FUNNY about those signings.
But to your point, to have better credibility in criticizing the FO, I will provide a few things I WOULD or WOULDN’T have done. Some are significant, some are less so. Off the top of my head:
**I would have held off on blowing my FA wad on two useless 30 plus year old players. **I would not have given Kobe an extension that was so crippling.
**I would not have signed Huertas this season or allowed Metta to remain on the roster.
**I would have not let Bazemore walk.
**I would not have pursued LaMarcus Aldridge
**I would have signed Isaiah Thomas
Clay Bertrand TempleOfJamesWorthy
I agree the Mozgov/Deng signings are difficult to defend. But who would you have signed instead?
Evan Turner (4 yrs, $70 mil.)?
Joakim Noah (4 yrs, $72 mil.)?
Bismack Byombo (4 yrs, $72 mil)?
Kent Bazemore of the 11 pts, 3 Rebs,, 2.5 Asts and 40% FG (4 years, 70 mil)?
Remember, the sal cap floor is 90% of the cap and the Lakers ***had to*** spend that money on somebody.
How many fans would have been happy if the Lakers had simply passed on free agency and distributed the money to the existing roster? Not very many.
I will NOT deny the Jim/Mitch team have made to some questionable decisions. What I will deny is two things:
1) That those “bad” decisions indicate a fundamental flaw in their approach…unless someone can show me how they turned stupid since 2011.
2) That those “bad” decisions would NOT have been made by other VP/GM combinations under similar circumstances.
Jerry West drafted David Rivers and gave Brian Cardinal the full mid-level exception. No NBA executive is without flaws.
new rr says
One pro-FO argument that will never work is pitting the Jim Buss FO against an imaginary one, since, obviously, we have no idea what another group would have done. So, you either see the current FO’s track record as being good enough to retain them, or you don’t.
One way to look at Magic Johnson and Jim Buss is to take the names out and look at quals. Magic, as I noted, has never done any number of jobs that are generally seen as prep for a GM gig, nor does he have an undergraduate degree or an advanced degree. Jim Buss had never played, scouted, or coached, and had never had a job in organized basketball until his dad gave him one, and has neither an undergrad nor an advanced degree.
So, Magic’s quals are basically that he was one the greatest players in NBA history and that he has made a lot of money as a businessman. Jim’s quals are basically that he has spent a lot of time in the Lakers’ FO after being handed a job by his dad.
I mentioned Travis Schlenk, Bob Meyers #2 in Golden State, as a guy whom the Lakers should be looking at.
>Has a M.Ed in Sports Management from Wichita State. Maybe not super-impressive, but it is an advanced degree in a relevant field.
>Has been a video coordinator, assistant coach, director of player personnel, assistant GM, and is now the VP of Basketball Ops. Schlenk has been working in the NBA since he was 25. He is now 41. Plus, of course, he works for an org. that is at the top of the league right now.
There is no strict set of quals for a GM gig, but I would argue that Schlenk, and other guys like him, are better bets to succeed than Jim Buss and Magic Johnson.
BTW, Joe Lacob has two of his sons, Kirk and Kent, working in basketball ops, and the former is actually the Assistant GM. We will see how that plays out when the Warriors’ current core gets old.
new rr says
TempleOfJamesWorthy Clay Bertrand
This has been covered, but the only penalty for not spending to the floor is giving the difference out to the guys on the roster.
As to other FA options, that has been covered as well. Most of the contracts given to middling guys are looking bad. The Lakers should have kept some of their powder dry.
TempleOfJamesWorthy The transition from genius to idiot coincided with a transition involving the late Jerry Buss that left us with a dysfunctional FO. Jimmy and Jeanie don’t communicate. At this point, the only way to put Humpty back together again is to replace Jimmy and Mitch.
That, IMO, is what Magic has been brought in to do.
drrayeye Man, where have you been? 😀
You would think he would learn from being in the owner group of the Dodgers. Stan Kasten is the CEO, he hired Andrew Friedman as President of Baseball of Operations, and Friedman hired has built a formidable front office. Everyone involved is qualified and have experience in running a sports organization. Instead, Magic wants to be President; he wants to make Lakers Great Again. This is no different then the rumors of Jeanne bringing Phil Jackson to run the Lakers. “Hey, he won championships, he knows what it means to be a Laker, hire him.”
wwlofficial drrayeye Lurking. I haven’t given up hope. . .