The Lost Decade – Part 2 (2016-Present)

With the signing of Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, the Lakers were being led down an unfamiliar path named mediocrity. Something needed to change.

Jeanie Takes Control

Cruelly, the 2016-2017 season began with a hopeful aspect. In spite of widespread criticism of the front office over the Deng and Mozgov contracts, Ingram and Russell were considered smart choices with high level picks and the scouting department was using lower-level picks to hit on solid bench players like Nance and Ivica Zubac. Walton was highly regarded as a prospective coach, and an attitude of youthful optimism took over the early season.

The team had started well above expectations at an even 10-10 before a tougher stretch of schedule and the injury bug conspired to derail the season. The Lakers were a putrid 7-24 in December and January, and then seemingly out of nowhere a dramatic ownership battle erupted.

Jeanie Buss, who had been left the controlling owner of the Lakers by her father before he passed, had her primary expertise and focus on the business end of the franchise. Her brother Jim, who worked in the front office, had largely been left to deal with basketball matters, along with General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

Seeing the team continue to underperform in spite of her brother’s pledges to return to title contention, Jeanie had grown impatient. When Jim failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to return to the playoffs by 2017 – the Lakers finished an improved 26-56 but were eliminated from contention in February – Jeanie promptly fired him, Kupchak, and most of the rest of the front office. She replaced them with longtime friend and Laker legend Magic Johnson as President of Basketball Operations and former Kobe Bryant agent Rob Pelinka as General Manager.

(Image/Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Shortly thereafter, as the season unceremoniously wound down, Jeanie was forced to put down an attempt by her scorned brother to take control of the team by taking him to court. The failure to make the playoffs again after a promising start combined with the ugliness of the conflict at the ownership level did not project the look of an organization ready to contend for a title.

Still, Jeanie Buss, Johnson, and Pelinka made some bold moves in the 2017 off-season with a clear objective in mind: restore the Lakers’ status as the premier destination for elite talent in the NBA. To rid themselves of Mozgov’s massive contract, they agreed to trade Russell with him to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez and a draft pick swap. Doing so permitted the Lakers to guarantee they would have max-level salary space the following summer when several big names such as LeBron James and Paul George would be free agents.

They had been aided by the luck of the draw when the NBA Draft Lottery delivered them the second overall pick yet again, a high enough spot for them to retain it. They used it on the college point guard phenomenon Lonzo Ball, who drew comparisons to Johnson for his combination of size, speed, and court vision at that position.

They were also able to use two late first-round picks previously acquired to draft Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, who along with Ball impressed in Summer League. Also, they signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was a client of LeBron James’ agent and close business partner Rich Paul, to a conspicuously generous contract.

In spite of these changes, the 2017-2018 season started poorly, with injuries and uncertainty about roles again to blame. Yet after an atrocious December, the team played better than .500 basketball, with each of the youngsters impressing in turn, to finish at 35-47. In February, the Lakers traded Clarkson and Nance to Cleveland in a deal that took on only contracts in their last year, increasing potential cap space for the coming free agency period.

With several huge names available and the Lakers openly clearing as much salary cap space as possible to court them, the summer of 2018 was set up to be pivotal in the plan Jeanie Buss, Johnson, and Pelinka had made when they took over the organization the previous season. The circumstances were unlikely to ever be more favorable. They had the money, they had a cast of promising young players on cheap contracts, and they had the best salesman in basketball.

(Image/Reuters)

Star Chasing

The name most widely connected to the Lakers near the beginning of free agency in 2018 was Paul George. He had requested a trade to the Lakers from Indiana before being dealt to join Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City instead. Yet as midnight approached on day one of the 2018 free agency period, the announcement (complete with a three-part ESPN special that made The Decision seem comparatively modest) came that George would be signing a four-year contract to remain with the Thunder.

Yet again, the Lakers had missed out on a major free agent and it was a body blow to their plan. Given George’s vocal request to be moved to the Lakers, the team had been widely expected to be very competitive in the market for his services. As it was, George was so taken with the lavish recruitment campaign Westbrook and the Thunder mounted that he decided without even granting the Lakers a meeting.

Yet even as the Laker fan base was stunned to the point of despair by George’s decision, Magic Johnson had been quietly invited to a meeting at the Los Angeles home of LeBron James. James was thinking about his future, and the potential attractions of both playing near his family and the media production opportunities available in LA were too strong to ignore.

The one thing James needed to know before making the move was whether he could trust the organization and front office to build winning teams around him. He may have had one eye on life after basketball, but he was not interested in spending his last years in the league trapped on bad teams as Bryant had.

Throughout their conversation, Johnson detailed the Lakers’ long term plans and sold James on a partnership with the organization. The message was particularly powerful coming from Johnson, who was so beloved by Dr. Buss both as a player and an individual that he was given a small ownership stake in the team. James was convinced.

Less than a day later, the Klutch Sports Twitter account tweeted a press release.

(Image/Klutch Sports)

Pelinka would later say that he found out in similarly low-key fashion when James’ agent Rich Paul texted him a simple “congratulations”, adorned for good measure with a balloon emoji.

But James was not the herald of a return to elite basketball, at least not immediately. Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, and Hart all had a long way to go, and the Lakers lost sharpshooting center Brook Lopez in free agency to the Bucks. Yet the addition of James was enough to have the Lakers in solid early position at 19-14 entering a Christmas confrontation with the twice defending champion Warriors.

The Lakers played a marvelous game, even closing it out effectively after James left in the third quarter with an apparent groin injury. But 20-14 was as good as the Lakers’ record would be. James’ recovery timeline stretched from weeks to months. Losses mounted as the supporting cast proved maddeningly unable to finish games without him.

The drama escalated when 25-year old superstar Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans went public with a request to be traded to the Lakers. To emphasize the point, he changed his representation to Klutch Sports and Rich Paul. The message was unmistakable: I want to be a Laker and LeBron James wants me to be one too.

The young players spent weeks in the lead-up to the trade deadline reading their names in press reports about trade discussions. Their play and team chemistry suffered. Worst of all, the deadline passed without a deal, meaning that the team and players they had openly been discussing trading were stuck with one another through the end of the year.

When James finally returned after three months, he seemed a step slower. A promised push to sneak into the playoffs never materialized. The team ended the season 37-45, out of the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year. Media personalities began to question whether, at age 34 and having just incurred the first significant injury of his career, James would be himself again even with a long summer to recover.

Image result for lebron james lakers 2018
(Image/Los Angeles Times)

LeBron James’ first season, even accounting for injuries, was a disappointment. People expected more of Ball and Ingram than they delivered, even when they showed flashes of their potential. James himself hadn’t failed to make the playoffs since his second year in the league. The failure to secure a trade for Davis during the year made the off-season all the more consequential. Some even said that without another star, the Lakers could be compelled to trade James and start over.

Adding to the Lakers’ misfortunes, Johnson unexpectedly resigned after the season, alluding to contention within the organization at the management level. Head Coach Luke Walton was fired. To replace him, the team had a high profile flirtation with former Laker and former James coach Tyronn Lue, only to see that negotiation fall through when the Lakers refused to meet Lue’s price.

Johnson then went to the media to express his frustration with Pelinka, who he claimed had been commenting loudly on the amount of time he spent working with the Lakers as opposed to his other business commitments. Talk of organizational dysfunction was revived.

It was at this point, when the Lakers’ long term plan seemed in serious danger of collapse, that they finally managed to trade for Anthony Davis. Davis’ insistence that the Lakers were his chosen destination scared off other potential suitors and the Lakers’ offer was clearly the best available. When another fortuitous draft lottery made the first-round pick they had been offering the fourth overall, their trade package became too good for New Orleans to refuse indefinitely.

It cost them Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and a combination of draft picks and optional-swaps sufficient to make the move somewhat risky, but the Lakers finally secured their second superstar. Additionally, the team brought in a coaching staff headed by former Pacers coach Frank Vogel, and with highly regarded names in Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins as his assistants.

Seeking to build a dynasty, they immediately pivoted to Kawhi Leonard‘s free agency and pitched him heavily on playing with two more of the world’s best players in his home town. Leonard had plans of his own and leveraged the temptation of the Lakers to force the Los Angeles Clippers to trade for Paul George to secure his services.

The 2019 off-season came to a close with mixed reviews. On one hand, it is difficult to criticize anything about the acquisition of Anthony Davis, who is a generational player. Yet, seeing the Lakers lose out on a free agent of Leonard’s caliber to the Clippers of all teams – taking with him another star long linked to the Lakers – only reminded fans of a dozen recent failures in free agency, and continued mistrust of the front office remained.

The Rise

Starting immediately after Leonard’s signing with the Clippers, the Lakers filled out their roster around their newly minted star duo. Danny Green, Avery Bradley, DeMarcus Cousins, and astonishingly – after Cousins suffered an ACL tear during an off-season workout – Dwight Howard was added to returning players Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Rajon Rondo, and JaVale McGee.

Several prominent commentators who shall remain nameless sneered at the roster. But 34 games into the season the Lakers are 26-7 and first in the highly competitive Western Conference. For the first time since late 2012, the Lakers are playing with championship expectations.

Image result for lebron james anthony davis
(Image/Slam)

James has come out in MVP form after his long off-season and he and Davis have shown early chemistry both on and off the court that few dared expect. With Davis sending signals of his intent to re-sign with the Lakers in his free agency after this season and the Lakers playing at a championship level, the intermediate future of this team seems – for now – to be secure.

In the last ten years, the Lakers fell farther and harder than they ever had. They had missed the playoffs only four times in 53 years from the time they moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, then they missed them six years running. They whiffed on more than half a dozen high-profile attempts to sign any max-contract caliber player, all while looking at the retired numbers and wondering where they went wrong. They were, over that span, the worst team in the league by the record.

Finally, though, fans have every reason to be hopeful. The two players they have leading their team are both going to be first-ballot Hall of Famers. Even should they fail, for whatever reason, to deliver a championship, they will not fail to be in the conversation every year they play together.

They are playing the sort of crowd-pleasing basketball that made this team the most followed in the world. The front office – following Johnson’s departure – has chosen to remain silent and let the results speak for themselves. They are speaking so loudly no one seems to notice the conspicuous silence at the top of the Lakers organization.

No one really knows if the tandem of James and Davis will win a Finals. There are, as always at the highest levels of athletic competition, dozens of things that could derail their efforts. Yet, for the first time in years, it feels as though the Lakers are making the correct moves and seeing the fruits of their labor. Whatever the next ten years look like for this team, it will not look like the last.

For part 1, click here.


Lakers Fanclub UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

NBA Store Europe: http://tinyurl.com/y585vud9 and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout. This is not limited to Lakers gear, the discount is available site-wide on any product you wish to purchase!

Even with James and Davis, Do the Lakers Still Have a Systemic Problem?

(Image/Inverse)

Even though the Los Angeles Lakers finally finalised a deal to land Anthony Davis this off-season, there are still issues that persist.

While the Lakers were unsuccessful in landing Kawhi Leonard in free agency, it showed on a larger stage that the Lakers are still a franchise with significant flaws. This is not an overreaction, the Lakers, the team I love, who have given me so much joy, happiness. and memories over the years, do have a systemic problem.

Under one of the greatest owners in professional sports, Dr. Jerry Buss, the Lakers were considered the cutting edge. Dr. Buss knew that you had to build an image, a persona that would not only be seen league-wide, but world-wide.

Image result for dr jerry buss lakers championships
(Image/Clutch Points)

Jeanie Buss in most aspects is a good owner, she cares about the team in which her father bestowed onto her. He left the team in her capable hands because she fought for her position. Dr. Buss wanted to give the team purely to his sons but he saw Jeanie’s work ethic, her ability to rise up in male dominated industries, and become a success. With his sons being interested in different pursuits and none showing the passion to be considered for the job, he handed the responsibility to his daughter in hope that she would continue where he left off.

Jeanie has allowed her employees to feel empowered by giving them free reign of the basketball aspects of the franchise while she focuses on the business side, which has flourished immensely. However, the Lakers have been ran very much like a family business, which in a way can be good, but in many ways can be dangerous. Especially with the hiring and exit of Magic Johnson, who Jeanie brought in as being a very trust-worthy friend, but at the same time overlooking his lack of front office experience.

Bringing in Rob Pelinka, a renowned sports agent, was considered a good decision. The model for such move succeeding had been seen in the Bay Area with Bob Myers leading the Golden State Warriors to dominance in recent years. But yet again, the Lakers lacked significant front office experience with the hire.

Jeanie Buss and the Lakers were offered a lifeline by Hall of Fame player and executive, Jerry West, who was willing to leave his consulting position with the Warriors to be closer to home and to also assist a team close to his heart get back on track. West’s offer was met with a firm, yet respectful, no.

Image result for jeanie buss lakers
(Image/Sports Illustrated)

The sign of a good leader is surrounding yourself with people smarter than yourself. People that will disagree with you, and ultimately help you find the best outcome. With Magic and Pelinka, you have two individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their professions and from an outsiders view, appear very hesitant to accept any advice even from within the organisation.

It became clearer with every move that the front office made that they were in need of help. An individual was needed who could add credible experience and allow them to become more nuanced in every aspect of front office life. They had that chance when Jerry West offered his services, however that was passed on. Many Laker fans wondered how long the Magic and Pelinka partnership would last, and the answer was not very long.

With the two previously having conducted business with arrogance and with little regard for their players, this showed how inexperienced and out of their element they truly were. This is not how you conduct business. Building an environment where your employees can flourish without fearing for their job security is universal. Saying to your players that trade talks are part of the game and they should act like professionals, is basically saying I’m going to fire you at some point in the near future but carry on as normal.

No player is going to perform at their peak under such speculation and stress, and rightly so. No player is going to be able to develop chemistry if more than half of the team is changed every single season. Consistency is key. Putting teammates together who will play together for longer than one season might actually help this season. The Los Angeles Clippers are a prime example of continuity being a good thing, especially last season.

Image result for clippers lakers jerry west
(Image/Clipperholics)

While the Lakers have now landed both LeBron James and Anthony Davis in back to back off-seasons, this gives the illusion that the Lakers front office is succeeding. But, simply put, the way the Lakers are doing business cannot go on much longer. With Magic Johnson and former Head Coach, Luke Walton, out of the equation, this significantly changes how the franchise will operate moving forward.

General Manager Rob Pelinka has a huge job ahead of him to prove that he is not worthy of being removed from his position. With the Davis trade, Pelinka bought himself some time. He has a small window to change the Lakers’ fortunes, to finally succeed. In addition, the moves made after missing out on Kawhi Leonard, he has shown an ability to fall on a plan B, and add talent around James and Davis. The franchise is moving in the right direction, for now. Let’s hope that it is sustainable.

By Jonathan Kiernan (@KiernanJonathan)

Top 5 Laker Dysfunctions Magic Revealed

(Image/ESPN)

Magic Johnson’s appearance on ESPN’s First Take was a truly shocking one indeed. For all of the lip service Johnson has paid to loving the Lakers, his actions lately have not supported this assertion.

It started with his unexpected resignation as Lakers President of Basketball Operations (PBO) just prior to the last regular season game. What followed were weeks of rumors and speculation regarding the reasons for his stepping down as well as murmurs of dysfunctional decision-making practices. However, rumors and speculation of the front office dysfunction were given instant credibility once Johnson appeared on First Take and single-handedly upstaged Frank Vogel’s introductory press conference just a few hours later.

Here are the top 5 Laker dysfunctions confirmed by Magic Johnson on First Take:

(Image/Los Angeles Times)

5. Rob Pelinka Betrayed Magic

Ever since Johnson’s resignation, reports began surfacing that Rob Pelinka would openly comment about Magic not being present at the Lakers’ facility. Thus calling into question Johnson’s work ethic. During his appearance on First Take, Johnson stated:

“Then I started hearing, ‘Magic, you’re not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office.’ So people around the Lakers office was telling me Rob (Pelinka) was saying things, and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back that I wasn’t in the office enough.”

“if you’re going to talk betrayal, that’s only with Rob (Pelinka).”

Magic Johnson (20/05/19, First Take)

4. Pelinka Is Not Trusted

Shortly after Johnson stepped down as PBO, there was talk of the Lakers possibly opening up a search to fill the vacancy. Reports came in suggesting that Rob Pelinka was not a person people around the league trusted or wanted to work with. Such reports were merely unconfirmed rumors until Johnson confirmed having been warned of Pelinka. Specifically, Johnson stated on First Take that “(There were) guys calling me saying ‘you better watch out for him”.

(Image/Newsday)

3. Phil Jackson, Linda Rambis and Kurt Rambis Are Indeed an Important Part of Laker Decision-Making

As the Lakers coaching search continued to proceed, stories started circulating regarding the rising power of Kurt Rambis and Jeannie’s confidante, Linda Rambis, in Laker decision-making. There were also reports of Phil Jackson having a sway with Jeanie in the process. Such reports were confirmed at least according to Johnson, for when he was asked who the “main voice” in Laker decision-making was, he stated:

“Jeanie will always make the final decision, but she huddles up with Linda Rambis, and probably now, …I think Phil Jackson advises her a little bit, and now Kurt Rambis is (a part of the process).”

Magic Johnson (20/05/19, First Take)

2. There Are Too Many Influential Voices in the Front Office

During the Lakers coaching search, a smattering of names began being mentioned as those being a part of the process and even the coaching interviews. Such names ranged from Tim Harris (Lakers Chief Operating Officer), Kurt and Linda Rambis, Joey and Jesse Buss, and Phil Jackson. This left many to wonder just who was actually calling the shots in Lakerland. On First Take, Johnson revealed that this chaotic mix of voices was a problem even before he stepped down as Lakers PBO:

“I didn’t like that Tim Harris was too involved in the Basketball. He’s supposed to run the Lakers business, but he was trying to come over to our side. Jeanie’s (has got to} stop that, right? You (have got to) stop people from having those voices… (There are) too many people at the table.”

Magic Johnson (20/05/19, First Take)

Johnson then revealed that Tim Harris was involved in meetings he was having with Jeanie regarding whether to fire Luke Walton, and that Harris’ friendship with Walton was an impediment in the process.

Regarding Joey and Jesse Buss, Johnson said:

“Then I had to monitor the brothers, because Joey and Jesse (Buss) wanted more power…. Because they felt they should have been put in powerful positions, whether that’s General Manager or the President.”

Magic Johnson (20/05/19, First Take)

Regarding overall Laker decision-making, Johnson summed up the problems and what should be done about them, as follows:

“Everybody gets to share their opinion, and it’s so much information coming at (Jeanie), then when I say ‘we have to do this,’ she can’t make a decision because they said, ‘no, don’t go the way Magic goes. You should go left instead of going right…’ So her love for those people and respect for those people often caused us to not make the right choice or there’s no decision….”

“Jeanie’s (has to) empower somebody whoever that is, is that Rob? Is that Kurt (Rambis)…? And you (have to) let them make decisions… She can’t be emotionally tied to the guys.”

Magic Johnson (20/05/19, First Take)
(Image/ESPN)

1. Jeanie Buss Has Not yet Learned How to Be an Effective Owner

Johnson stated that the final decision maker for the Lakers is Jeanie Buss. From all of the things Magic stated on First Take, it seems clear that she has not followed good process and has not effectively been able to delegate responsibility within the Lakers organization. For starters, Johnson stated that Jeanie knew he wouldn’t often be present at Laker facilities due to his many business interests. Yet she still decided to hire him for the Lakers’ most important front office position:

“I make more money (with my businesses) than becoming President of the Lakers, so you know that I’m going to be in and out. Is that OK with you? (Jeanie) said ‘yes.’”

Magic Johnson (20/05/19, First Take)

Additionally, according to Johnson, Jeanie has not empowered any particular person to make basketball decisions, Jeanie is apparently “emotionally tied” to too many people, and she is allowing non-basketball people (e.g. Tim Harris and Linda Rambis) to have a significant sway with basketball decisions. As owner, Jeanie has the final say on all of these matters, so fault for the present condition of the Lakers can only fall at her feet.

The story has not yet been written on whether Jeanie will ever be able to effectively lead the Lakers back to the promised land. Magic’s explosive First Take interview, however, did not do much to give fans hope in the franchise’s direction going forward as it gave voice and credibility to reports of dysfunction that go all the way to the top.

By Frank Gaulden (@FrankGaulden)

Who’s in Charge of the Lakers?

(Image/Getty Images)

After Magic Johnson decided to step down as President of Basketball Operations, the Lakers have refused to make or release any official statement regarding the direction of the front office. Since then, rumours have been swirling regarding just who is in charge of the decision-making process for the franchise. Such rumours seriously put in doubt that any particular person or persons currently in the Lakers front office are calling the shots.

The first reports were that Rob Pelinka had sucked up the power void left by Magic Johnson’s departure. Reports then surfaced about the possibility that a “shadow executive” that was currently running a team in the NBA playoffs was in the mix, secretly approving of moves made by Rob Pelinka. As the days continued, names like former showtime Laker fan favorite, Kurt Rambis, and his wife, Linda Rambis, a close confidant of Jeannie Buss, began being mentioned as having a place in the decision making of the front office.

Along with the Rambis contingent, Bill Oram tweeted that when the Lakers were conducting coaching interviews, the brass interviewing included Jeannie Buss, Kurt and Linda Rambis, Joey and Jessee Buss, and Lakers Chief Operating Officer, Tim Harris. But the names of potential decision makers didn’t end there.

Magic Johnson, despite having stepped down as President of Basketball Operations just prior to the Lakers final regular season game, stated he was still involved in influencing Laker decisions, in a TMZ interview. During said interview, he proclaimed the fact he was still actively trying to help bring the Lakers back to prominence to the point it was like he “never left” the organization. Then came Magic Johnson’s recent tweet that he and Jeannie Buss had dinner together.

After coaching candidate Monty Williams agreed to become the Phoenix Suns’ new head coach, reports began surfacing that Magic Johnson helped sway Jeanie Buss away from coaching candidate Monty Williams and towards Tyronn Lue. As if there were not already too many cooks in the kitchen, Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of The L.A. Times reported that Phil Jackson had expressed to Jeannie Buss that he supported the hiring of Tyronn Lue as the Lakers’ next head coach.

If you’re keeping count, that adds up to a group of nine different decision makers (if you don’t count the “shadow executive”) with multiple persons not even officially working with the Lakers in any official capacity, and most having major questions as to their competency to be making such decisions.

(Image/Inverse.com)

Now more than ever before the Lakers are in need of a clear, defined, stable voice to lead the way as they head into a crucial offseason where landing a top tier free agent is of paramount importance. Instead, there appears to be no more than a hodge-podge of names with no clear person or persons in charge. All of these reports seem to suggest that nobody knows who is in charge. The list of names of those influencing Lakers’ decision-making continues to grow seemingly by the day. And until the Lakers decide – if they ever will – to make a statement regarding who is in charge in the front office, we may truly never know.

By Frank Gaulden (@FrankGaulden)

Lakers’ Silence to Blame for Unprecedented Rumours

(Image/NBC Los Angeles)

It’s certainly nothing new for a Lakers off-season to be chalk full of rumours and drama galore. After all, fans and press covering the team have had six plus off-seasons with no postseason participation in which to speculate about matters ranging from potential free agents to coaching candidates.

This year, however, has been a very different animal due to the rumours that have emerged since Magic Johnson’s bizarre firing of himself as President of Basketball Operations before the Lakers’ final regular season game. With the Lakers yet to announce in any official capacity who is to fill Magic Johnson’s shoes in the front office in what has been billed as the most important off-season in Laker history (since last season), the speculation regarding the future of the Lakers franchise has hit an all-time high for one reason: an inexplicable silence emanating from Lakers top brass, namely, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.

(Image/Yahoo! Sports)

After Magic Johnson’s abrupt retirement from the Lakers earlier this month, the prevailing viewpoint was that since Jeanie’s “hire-a-true-Laker-in-my-inner-circle” plan had failed in spectacular fashion, it was time for the Lakers to broaden their horizons and find the best talent regardless of their ties or lack thereof to the Lakers.

The Lakers’ response? After Magic Johnson stepped down, there was a vague excerpt in the Lakers’ official statement stating they would “work in a measured and methodical fashion to make the right moves for the future of our organisation”. Ever since, however, no “official” moves have been announced by the front office. This begged the question as to why the silence from the organisation that for the past few years has been as leaky as a submarine with a screen door?

Then, before hearing any new names to replace Magic Johnson, reports begun surfacing that the Lakers were engaging in the process of hiring a new head coach to replace the recently-fired Luke Walton, which included names like Monty Williams, Tyronn Lue, and Juwan Howard as the early favorites. But… what? Interviewing coaching candidates before naming a new Lakers President of Basketball Operations? What in the name of out-of-order was going on? Who was picking the coaching candidates? The sound heard from the Lakers offices was the sound of silence.

Why search for a coach in the absence of the Lakers announcing a new President of Basketball Operations? One theory was that of a “shadow executive.” Specifically, Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports reported that there was a secret President of Basketball Operations either calling the shots or approving front office moves behind the scenes, but since this secret individual’s team was still in the playoffs, an official announcement would come later.

Of course this theory makes no sense. Not only would it be textbook tampering, which would surely result in severe punishment for the Lakers if true, but teams can ask for permission to talk with executives of other teams even if those teams are still in the playoffs. One need look no further than Minnesota’s talks with the Clippers’ GM, Michael Winger, about him becoming their new President of Basketball Operations while the Clippers were still battling the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. But, in the face of absolute silence from the Lakers, such rumours can’t help but find a home.

Then came the seemingly more substantiated reports by more connected members of the media such as ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne who began reporting that Rob Pelinka, the GM of the Lakers for the past two seasons and who formerly worked under Magic Johnson, had begun to take on more power in the Lakers front office. This reporting was much to the dismay of many Lakers fans and media who believed Magic’s departure would also signal the end of Pelinka’s stay in Los Angeles.

The reports of Pelinka gaining more power within the front office seemed even more perplexing amidst reports that he was seen around the league as a person who is categorically disliked, unreliable, and untrustworthy. But despite several trusted reports of Pelinka’s fall upward within the front office, there was still no official announcement or statement from anyone in the Lakers organisation to corroborate them.

(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein)

There are continued reports that Rob Pelinka may not be the sole decision-maker in the Lakers’ front office. Bill Oram of The Athletic reported that former showtime Laker fan favorite Kurt Rambis along with his wife, Linda Rambis (trusted confidant of Jeanie Buss), and others comprised a contingent of a new Lakers brass that were now becoming involved in the coaching interview process. The unsuccessful past of Kurt Rambis and unproven basketball knowledge of Linda Rambis aside, was there any official word from the Lakers organisation about the Rambis’ roles? Still nothing.

As a result of the silence in the face of multiple rumours and reports, Laker fans, starving for news are turning to previously unheard of and, shall we say, less-than-reliable twitter profiles who claim to “got sources” to find answers. Despite the fact that such “reports” of shadow executives and head coaching offers have lacked the credibility of even one corroborating report by more seasoned reporters, such twitter account “news breakers” continue to exist and gain a following for one reason: continued silence by the Laker front office.

Whether Laker fans want it or not, and it appears mostly not, Rob Pelinka along with Kurt and Linda Rambis appear to have prominent places in the Lakers front office. But this begs the question: if this is the Lakers’ direction of choice, why not send out a statement and officially end all of the speculation? Why not have done this weeks ago when reports began surfacing that Pelinka was taking over as the de facto President of Basketball Operations? Such silence continues to fuel hopes that the Lakers have some kind of secret plan they are waiting to announce.

(Image/USA Today Sports)

This then continues to fuel the wild speculative rumours from sources ranging from the reliable to the not-so-reliable. Worse yet, the lack of official voice from the Lakers organisation makes the team look dysfunctional, disorganized, and unsure of itself. Which is not a good look for a franchise desperately seeking to land a top flight free agent this summer.

However, unpopular a decision it may be to name the Pelinka-Rambis contingent as heads of the new Laker front office, the Lakers could show some modicum of purpose, direction, and fortitude in leading the narrative instead of allowing others to write it for them by releasing some kind of official word on the topic to end the uncertainty and speculation in this very important off-season. Although, it should be noted that what most think the Lakers should do and what the Lakers actually do are often as wide apart as, well, a lake.

By Frank Gaulden (@FrankGaulden)

Live Blog: Magic Johnson Quits on the Lakers

(Image/AP News)

Shortly before the Los Angeles Lakers’ final game of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers, President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson remarkably announced to the media that he was resigning from his post with the team.

The news came as a shock to Laker fans around the globe, as the team are prepping for a huge off-season in which it is expected that additional star talent is to be added alongside LeBron James. Coming into this campaign expectations were high and understandably so, unfortunately the season did not go to plan as the team failed to reach the play-offs for a sixth successive season.

Johnson revealed in a press conference to the media that he did not even notify owner Jeanie Buss or general manager Rob Pelinka of his intentions to depart. “Somebody is going to have to tell my boss, because I know she’s going to be sick… But I knew I couldn’t face her face-to-face and tell her” Johnson said.

Jeanie Buss did react on Twitter during half-time of the Lakers’ close loss to the Trail Blazers however, admiring the changes that Johnson had brought to the franchise during his short tenure.

The Lakers organisation did release a statement a short time after, thanking him for his services and stating their intentions moving forward, in finding a successor.

“There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson. We are deeply grateful to Magic for all that he has done for our franchise – as a player, an ambassador and an executive.

We thank him for his work these past two years as our President of Basketball Operations and wish him, Cookie, Andre, EJ and Elisa all the best with their next steps. He will always be not only a Lakers icon, but our family.

As we begin the process of moving forward, we will work in a measured and methodical fashion to make the right moves for the future of our organization.”

Obviously it is unknown what has occurred behind closed doors, but Johnson did state a desire to return to his ‘old life’ of being a wealthy businessman. Johnson added his frustrations of being investigated and fined by the NBA for tampering whenever he comments on basketball on social media or speaks to another organisation’s player.

This story is moving fast and new details are emerging every hour it seems. This article will feature as a live blog below where you can stay up-to-date (oldest to newest).


10/04: The full press conference in which Magic Johnson announced his resignation can be found below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUFTUPqW60s


10/04: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN has commented on Magic Johnson’s commitment to the role, stating that his “office hours were limited”. Wojnarowski also addressed the ongoing situation with coach Luke Walton.


10/04: Bill Oram of The Athletic gives a brutal but honest account on the Lakers’ current situation following the news of Magic’s departure:

https://theathletic.com/912303/2019/04/09/how-the-lakers-won-the-lebron-sweepstakes-but-ended-up-back-in-the-lottery/


10/04: Shaq reacts to Magic Johnson stepping down as Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations:


10/04: ESPN’s Rachel Nichols speaks to Magic Johnson following his press conference:


10/04: Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports suggests that Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently gave Magic Johnson permission to fire coach Luke Walton at the conclusion of this season. It is unknown whether this will now go ahead.

https://sports.yahoo.com/sources-lakers-owner-jeanie-buss-recently-gave-magic-johnson-approval-to-fire-luke-walton-052736313.html


10/04: Bill Oram of The Athletic is back again. He calls for Jeanie Buss to call on the likes of R.C. Buford, Sam Presti or Bob Myers for the vacancy.


10/04: Magic Johnson breaks his silence on Twitter with the following message.


10/04: ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne is suggesting that Rob Pelinka will stay as General Manager of the Lakers.

“The team is still assessing Johnson’s decision, but general manager Rob Pelinka will stay in his job, and, if anything, his power will grow.”


10/04: Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck describes Magic Johnson’s resignation as being “probably the best thing that’s happened to the Lakers in months”.


10/04: “Magic Johnson Denies Misconduct with Lakers Staff Ahead of Reported ESPN Story”

https://syndication.bleacherreport.com/amp/2830665-magic-johnson-denies-misconduct-with-lakers-staff-ahead-of-reported-espn-story.amp.html?__twitter_impression=true


11/04: The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson, who covers the Golden State Warriors, has reported that the Lakers have a possibility of replacing Magic Johnson with Bob Myers from the Warriors. The story also has the backing of the New York Times’ Marc Stein and ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

But why would Myers want to go to the Lakers?

Well, for starters, money. According to Sam Amick, national NBA writer for The Athletic — as he discussed on the new “Tampering” podcast — Magic was making $10 million a year with the Lakers. No, Myers does not make that much with the Warriors. Maybe about half that. Myers definitely makes less than Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who recently signed a contract extension at a number the Warriors have been diligent about keeping close to the vest.

If $10-million-a-year and the power to choose his staff is on the table, Myers would have to listen. I’d bet he’d listen. His wife might make him listen. But it may not even take that much. That’s the only upward step for him: full control and a salary that makes him the chief. The chance to get that while going back to his stomping grounds has to make it even more attractive. He’s already done the impossible — been the head of building his childhood team into a dynasty. The only thing that’s possibly cooler is resurrecting the Lakers. That might be enough.