The Greatest Lakers of All-Time: Magic Johnson


This is the fifteenth in a series of articles featuring a countdown of the Top 16 Greatest Lakers of All-Time, as decided by the followers of Lakers UK on Twitter and Instagram.

Continuing with number 2 – Magic Johnson. We’ll take an in-depth look at perhaps his greatest plays as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Earvin Johnson, nicknamed Magic because of the things he could do with a basketball, played his whole 13 season career with the purple and gold. In those 13 seasons, he played 40,783 minutes in 1,096 games, scoring 21,408 points and accumulating 12,487 assists (1st all-time among Lakers). Since his early retirement in 1991, due to his HIV diagnoses, Johnson has worked for the Lakers as Head Coach, General Manager, an ambassador, and as President of Basketball Operations. He would also make a brief return as a player in 1996.

Following his arrival in Los Angeles in 1979, Johnson became a key piece of a dynamic duo, pairing his playmaking and court vision with the consistent greatness of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This would result in one of the most revered basketball pairings of all-time, bringing the Lakers 5 championships in their 10 seasons playing together.

In his years with the purple and gold, Magic had some truly legendary moments. One would come in his rookie season, Game 6 of the 1980 Finals. He would start at center due to an injury Abdul-Jabbar sustained in the game prior. A young Johnson would lead LA to victory, totaling 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists. Another truly memorable moment from Johnson’s career would be his performance in the 1992 NBA All-Star game, finishing the game with 25 points and 9 assists. As he turned back the clock and created a brilliant highlight reel for fans to remember him by.

But for this recap, we have decided to look at the running hook shot he hit over Kevin McHale with 2 seconds left in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals.

Magic Johnson’s Sky Hook:

It’s June 9, 1987. It’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers are up 2-1 against the Boston Celtics. The vicious rivals had already met in the Finals twice in the 80s, splitting championship honours as Boston won in ’84 and LA won in ’85. Going in, this finals series had the potential to be the deciding factor in answering the question ‘which team is better?’. Furthermore, ‘which player is better, Magic or Bird?’.

Going into Game 4 the teams had obviously already shared the court in 3 games prior. The first 2 were played in The Great Western Forum. The Lakers would take Game 1 as Magic Johnson and James Worthy would combine for 62 points and 23 assists, in a 126-113 victory. Game 2 would see Los Angeles hold home court once again as 5 players scored at least 20 points, Byron Scott (24), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (23), James Worthy (23), Magic Johnson (22) and Michael Cooper (21). Magic would also have 20 assists in his 31 minutes, as the Lakers won 141-122. Game 3 would see the series move coasts as the teams flew to Massachusetts. Boston would claim one back as Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson combined for 56 points, winning the game 109-103.

With the series at 2-1, Game 4 would act as a decider to whether the finals would become a 3 game series, or would the Lakers be able to put their foot on Boston’s neck. The 1st quarter ended in the Celtics’ favour, 29-22. As the Lakers leading scorer in the ’87 Playoffs, Worthy, didn’t score in the first 12 minutes.

The 2nd quarter would be more of the same as the Celtics kept the Lakers at arm’s length. It would conclude with a coming together between Worthy and Boston big man Greg Kite, as Worthy attacked the bucket. There is about 15 seconds left in the half as Worthy rises for the lay-up, Kite fouls him hard as he bounces on the parquet floor. Clearly annoyed, Worthy jumps to his feet and turns to begin an assault on Kite as the Lakers bench invades the court in their own expression of anger. Worthy swings a right hook at Kite’s head as he squares up himself, bodies flood the space between the two as they try and defuse the situation. Both coaches, Pat Riley and K.C. Jones, enter the court as they attempt to break up the skirmish. Riley puts his 6’4” frame into the body of the 6’11” Kite, in an attempt to protect his scoring wing.

The situation slowly cools from boiling point, both players are awarded technicals as Worthy steps to the line to shoot a pair of free throws. He hits both with the clock at 15 seconds. The Celtics come up the other way as McHale hits a fade-away jumper with 1 second left, concluding the 1st half, 55-47. Johnson led the Lakers in scoring in the first 24 minutes, with 19, the next best was Worthy with 7.

The 3rd quarter would first see the Celtics extend their lead further, going 8/9 and putting themselves up by 16, with 6 minutes gone in the half. A common problem the Lakers found when facing the slower-paced Celtics of the 80s was when they weren’t missing the Lakers wouldn’t get the fast-break opportunities their offence was built for. In an attempt to counteract this, Riley would make his team quicker. Going with a lineup of Cooper, Scott, Worthy, A.C. Green, and Mychal Thompson. As Magic leaves the game with 3:30 left in the quarter, he has 27 points. Boston continues to rally as the Lakers call a timeout, 2:55 left, 81-67 in the Celtics’ favour.

LA would come out with a reviewed defensive game plan. They would begin to run doubles at the ball handler, forcing the Celtics to make rushed offensive decisions. This paired with the elite speed of the line-up allowed a defensive player to leave their man, to double and return to the open offensive player before they had the opportunity to put up an open shot. This would work as intended, as the Celtics began to miss shots, the Lakers began to find fast-break opportunities. Something particularly effective with the quick foot speed of the group Riley had put on the floor. A specific game plan LA would use when Magic was on the bench, as Riley didn’t like using up Johnson’s energy chasing the ball around on the defensive end. Something both Scott and Cooper were built for.

This was working well before another fight broke out with a minute to play in the 3rd. Scott would be fouled by Bird as he went up for the lay-up on the fast-break. A.C. Green would follow up the court, applauding the officials’ decision. McHale took issue with this as he comes up behind Green and shoves him. Scott then shoves him back as he defends his teammate. The players then get into a pushing match as the Boston bench flood the floor and separate the 3. Yet another example of the burning rivalry between the two teams. This would see out the 3rd as the Lakers had managed to cut a 16 point deficit to 7. Boston lead 85-78.

The 4th quarter starts with a scare for the Lakers as Magic Johnson collides with Larry Bird and they bump knees. Johnson had chronic knee problems throughout his career and the Lakers couldn’t have hoped for a worse time for it to rear its ugly head. He would leave the game as his teammates tried to hold down the fort in his absence. This would only last a few possessions as the Lakers were desperate to get their MVP ball handler back on the floor. He returns after about a minute, suffering from a clear limp.

8 minutes left in the game and the lead sits at 93-86 in Boston’s favour. By the time the clock strikes 6 minutes left the Lakers have tied the score 93-93, thanks to a parade to the line powered by Boston’s foul trouble. The Lakers had pulled a 16 point deficit back level as they looked to assert some dominance in the 4th quarter. A call that the Celtics would answer first, going on an 8-2 run and forcing Riley to call a timeout. 4:22 left, 101-95.

The momentum is well and truly with the home team at the Boston Garden as the players come back. The clock continues to tick as the Lakers struggle to score. 2 minutes left, the score is 103-96. Los Angeles call another timeout. Mychal Thompson would go to the line to shoot 2 as the teams returned, he goes 1 for 2 as the score is 103-97.

Boston comes up the other way and gives the ball to Robert Parish in the post, something that had worked throughout the game for them. LA double him and snatch the ball as they run out on the fast-break. The ball finds Magic as he runs for the paint. He gives it up to Cooper on the right-wing as he is wide open. He shoots it from behind the arc and connects, 103-100, 1:30 left.

The Celtics come up the floor and throw it out of bounds 10 seconds into their possession. The Lakers inbound and run the ball up the court in a rush to make something happen, giving it to Worthy at the right short corner. He’ll dribble into the paint before he is doubled, pitching up a hook shot from the center of the paint as it snugs through. 103-102, 1 minute left. Boston calls for time.

They come back and the Celtics decide they are going to live and die with their star Small Forward, Bird. They bring it up the floor and Bird ends up throwing up a contested right short corner fade-away. It bounces off the rim as Thompson retrieves the rebound, 44 seconds left. Johnson brings the ball up the floor and sets up shop at the right-wing, letting his teammates initiate the play. Cooper sets a screen deep in the paint, allowing Abdul-Jabbar to catch-and-slam a wide-open ally-oop. The Lakers take their first lead since the first 3 minutes of the game, 104-103, 29 seconds left. K.C. Jones calls for time.

They’ll come back out as Boston has advanced the inbound into the frontcourt. Dennis Johnson will start with the ball, and he runs a pick-and-roll with Parish as they get the switch. He delivers the ball into Parish as he is doubled in the post. Parish bounces it back out to the open Johnson who is then doubled himself. Johnson gives it to an open Ainge as LA chase the ball around the floor. Bird is open in the left corner as the ball is projected towards him, he puts up the 3 and laces the net as it drops through. The Garden erupts as the Lakers call a timeout. 106-104 to Boston, 12 seconds left.

Cooper inbounds the ball when the teams come back. He gives it to Magic on the left wing who immediately floats the rock to Abdul-Jabber in the left high post. He backs down Parish and tries to put up a hook shot but is fouled, he’ll shoot 2 at the line, a chance to tie the game. The Boston crowd wave everything they can in an effort to distract the NBA’s All-Time leading scorer. He hits the first but misses the second as the ball is knocked out of bounds on the rebound. Lakers ball. The camera shows Riley checking with his bench that he has a timeout left. Confirmation given, he calls his final timeout. 7 seconds left, 106-105.

They come back in as Cooper will inbound once again. Magic and Worthy run a split play as they force the Celtics to switch. Magic receives the ball on the left corner as he is now guarded by McHale. He fakes a shot before dribbling in-and-out, 5 seconds left. LA spread the court as Magic drives towards the center of the paint. He picks up the ball with 3 seconds left, taking 2 quick steps as he runs across the paint. He jumps off his left foot with the ball in his right palm, McHale and Parish jump with him as they try and stop the ball. Magic floats up a hook shot as he swings his arm around to 12 o’clock and releases. The Spalding ball floats towards the rim as the clock strikes 2 seconds left. If this misses the Celtics have the ball game. But it doesn’t. The ball laces the net, creating the beautiful ‘swish’ sound as Magic connects for his only 2 points of the quarter. 2 seconds left, 107-106 to the Lakers.

Celtics call timeout as the energy is sucked out of the crowd inside the Boston Garden. When they come back they manage to get Bird an open shot from the same corner he had connected from just 10 seconds of game time before. He misses however, as the final buzzer sounds. Commentary exclaims “and the Lakers have won and Pat Riley and the Lakers dance off the court”.

The Lakers would go up 3-1 in the series, eventually winning 4-2 in 6 games. Magic Johnson would win his 3rd Finals MVP with averages of 26.2 PPG, 13 APG, 8 RPG and 2.3 SPG. A huge achievement that continues to be a key point between Bird and Magic fans to this day. A statistic that sits in Magic’s favour. This would also see an end to the Boston Celtics dominant period in the 80s, as the Lakers went on to win another championship the following season. Another key piece of history in a war that rages between the Lakers and Celtics to this day.

(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/1985 NBAE)

In the summer of 1976, the New Orleans Jazz (later the Utah Jazz) would sign former Laker Gail Goodrich. At the time league rules stated that the signing of a high-level free agent required the team losing out to be compensated, this came in the form of draft picks. One of these draft picks would turn into the number 1 pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. The Lakers would use it to select a young Magic Johnson.

In his time with the purple and gold he a earned an All-Rookie Team selection, 2 NBA steals titles, 4 NBA assist titles, 12 NBA All-Star Selections, 2 NBA All-Star MVPs, an All-NBA Second Team selection, 9 All-NBA First Team selections, 3 NBA MVPs, 5 NBA Championships, 3 NBA Finals MVPs, and later an induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1992 the franchise made it so no other Laker would wear number 32 again. Hanging his jersey in the rafters of The Forum, and now the Staples Center. Becoming the 5th player to have his number retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. All these achievements more than cement his number 2 place as a true Laker great!

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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.


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

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.

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


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

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)

Things That Didn’t Make Sense from Magic’s First Take Interview

(Image/Los Angeles Magazine)

As even the most casual basketball fan knows at this point, Magic Johnson recently featured on ESPN’s First Take and appeared to do his best to single-handedly take a wrecking ball to the Lakers organization.

Despite Johnson’s reputation for positivity, bleeding purple and gold, and wearing his infectious smile, his First Take interview showed a completely different side much less palatable to Laker fans. On top of confirming several suspicions of Laker dysfunction, Johnson’s words raised several points that didn’t exactly hold water under even the most casual levels of scrutiny. While several points could be raised here, what follows are the top five things that didn’t make sense from Johnson’s First Take interview:

(Image/NBC Sports)

5. Johnson’s Attempts to Justify Past Personnel Decisions

While Johnson admitted to making a mistake in failing to resign Brook Lopez last off-season, he did attempt to justify his failure to resign Julius Randle and his trading of D’Angelo Russell. As for Randle, Johnson claimed he could not sign re-sign him because he wanted a two year deal (Lakers only wanted to give out one year deals), that Randle could not play on the floor with LeBron James, and that he was not enough of a floor spacer.

The two year deal point was unfortunately his best in regards to Julius Randle. If the Lakers had drawn a line in the sand about one year deals, then Randle’s insistence upon a longer deal would seem to have precluded any chances of resigning him. If one looks deeper, however, it would seem obvious that a two year deal at the team friendly price that he signed for in New Orleans would have been advantageous for the Lakers notwithstanding any one year rule.

If the Lakers needed the extra cap space to sign a free agent this summer, his contract would not have been difficult to move via trade as it is a reasonable one and his deal would be expiring. Also, if the Lakers were unable to sign a max free agent this summer, they would still have had a very talented and versatile player in Randle for another year – not a bad consolation prize.

The points about Randle not being a floor spacer or being able to play on the floor with LeBron also don’t pass any rudimentary thought experiment. First, when the Lakers let Randle go, one of their first signings was Rajon Rondo, a non-floor spacer. The Lakers were also criticized because their other notable free agent signings outside of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were non-shooters (e.g. Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, and JaVale McGee).

Prior to the 2018-2019 season, Johnson and Pelinka went on record stating that they preferred a team of play-makers rather than shooters because, they argued, no team could out-Golden-State the Warriors. So, if shooting was not the Lakers’ priority last off-season, then Randle’s lack of floor spacing ability should not have been a factor against resigning him.

Moreover, if play-making was such a priority, Randle had shown flashes of being a very capable play-maker. He would have fit the bill quite nicely. It should be added that Basketball Reference recorded Randle’s three point percentage for the 2018-2019 season being 34.4% which would have been above the Lakers’ team three-point percentage of 33.3%. Randle’s play-making and improved shooting numbers certainly would have fit nicely next to LeBron in a small-ball lineup that the Lakers tried so desperately, without much success.


In regards to D’Angelo Russell, the only justification Johnson gave for trading him was the incident with “Shaggy P”. Wherein Russell had filmed a personal confession of sorts from Nick Young (actually referred to as “Swaggy P”) and the video ended up being posted on social media. This led to much consternation in the Lakers locker room during Russell’s rookie season. Apparently nowhere in Johnson’s frame of mind was the possibility that Russell could learn from this incident and go on to recognize the talent that led the Lakers to drafting him with the number two overall pick. Brooklyn were more than happy to accommodate the Lakers in off-loading him as a Russell-led Nets would go on to reach the playoffs and in the process, officially eliminate the Lakers from postseason contention this past season.

All of the above does not even address the less-than-professional attempt of both Johnson and Stephen A. Smith to justify the head-scratching trade of Ivica Zubac to the Clippers for a roughly one month rental of the disappointing Mike Muscala. During this discussion, both Johnson and Smith seemed to chortle while listing Zubac’s playoff statistics, completely ignoring the fact that even Zubac’s underwhelming numbers were better than any Lakers player since the team failed to even qualify for the playoffs.

(Image/USA Today Sports)

4. Rob Pelinka’s “Betrayal” of Magic Johnson

On Johnson’s First Take interview, he said that he had let Pelinka know he was only going to be Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations (PBO) for three years and that at the end of this time, Pelinka was being groomed to take over the same position. Yet, at the same time, he blamed Pelinka for “betraying” him because he “want(ed) his position”. If Johnson was to remain as PBO indefinitely, then certainly Pelinka could have a motive to try by any means necessary to oust Johnson. However, if it was a foregone conclusion that Pelinka was going to take over player-personnel decisions from Johnson after just one more season (they had already worked together for two seasons), this motivation for betrayal would make little sense.

Additionally, Johnson claimed to have been upset by the fact that he was hearing around Lakers’ offices that he was “not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office”. Yet, he claimed during the same First Take interview to have told Laker owner Jeanie Buss as a stipulation to his hiring that due to him needing to attend to his businesses, he would be “in and out.” Given an apparent agreement between Johnson and Buss that he was to be a part-time PBO, it seems odd that this would be such a hot-button issue for Johnson that others voiced concerns about said practice.

If Johnson was angry with Pelinka for not confronting him directly about him not being in the office, this would also be a head-scratcher. He was upset that others didn’t address him personally about their issues with him, yet it was apparently acceptable for him to not personally confront anyone in the Lakers organization about his issues with them. Instead, it was perfectly acceptable in his eyes to go on national TV to decimate the entire franchise without ever saying anything to anyone in the organization.

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(Image/Sports Gossip)

3. Johnson Claims That His Hiring Stipulated He Would Be “in and out”

In an apparent attempt to address what most had known for a while, namely that Johnson was rarely at Laker offices, Johnson pointed out on First Take:

“When we sat down and negotiated, I told (Jeanie) I can’t give up my businesses. I make more money doing that than becoming the President of the Lakers. So, you know, I’m going to be in and out. I said is that ok with you? She said ‘yes.’”


This was an interesting revelation, because when he was initially hired by Lakers as PBO, he made an appearance on Spectrum Sports with Jeanie Buss. At that time, he stated that the Lakers presented a rare opportunity in which he would agree to “leave his businesses aside, to concentrate fully-150% on Laker business”.

These two statements cannot be reconciled other than to say that Johnson’s words may tend to simply be tailored to the the immediate context and audience in which he is speaking, whatever that may be.

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(Image/Sports Illustrated)

2. Johnson Claims to Love the Lakers

Not just on First Take, but in several other contexts, Johnson claims to love the Lakers. However, if this is so, why go on First Take and completely submarine new Laker coach, Frank Vogel, and his press conference that Johnson knew was set to take place in a few hours.

Additionally, Pelinka stated at Vogel’s press conference that he had spoken with Johnson just days before his appearance on First Take and that Johnson gave Pelinka no indication that he was going to eviscerate the franchise on national TV, throwing multiple Lakers’ front office employees under the buss.

Ramona Shelburne also reported that in Jeanie Buss’s multiple conversations with Johnson after his stepping down as Laker PBO, Johnson never told her his grievances:

“Buss had questioned Johnson several times in the wake of his public resignation, asking him if there were any issues with Pelinka or anyone else in the organization. They spoke on the phone for hours. They went to a private dinner at Wally’s in Beverly Hills on May 2. Multiple Lakers sources told ESPN that each time, Johnson said nothing beyond what he’d said on April 9 – that he didn’t feel like he could be Magic in this role and wanted his freedom back.”

Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer

So not only did he hold back from this organization he claims to love, he made an affirmative decision to go on national TV to air grievances for the first time. This leads to the question of “why?”.

It was also disconcerting to see the tone, tenor, format and pace of the First Take interview itself. While there is no direct evidence of such, and such is conjecture by me, the interview at times appeared to have been rehearsed and premeditated. Johnson and Stephen A. Smith even referenced a prior meeting leading up to the show. At no point in time did Smith appear surprised at any of Johnson’s answers. Hence, it appeared as if Johnson specifically withheld information from the Lakers in order to submarine them by surprise on national TV.

Johnson also has claimed that his love for the Lakers would motivate him to help the franchise recruit potential free agents in some sort of unofficial capacity with the team. After Johnson’s inflammatory comments on national TV, he could never be expected to meet with free agents alongside Pelinka who he has branded as a “back-stabber”. Any recruiting pitch would also be undermined by the fact he painted the Lakers organization as one not able to make decisions because when they are not backstabbing and power-grabbing, they are paralyzed by too many cooks in the kitchen.

While one may be able to conjure up motivations for Johnson’s comments, one thing is clear: if “love” is a verb, Johnson surely has no love for the Lakers.

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1. Johnson Claims to Think of Jeanie Buss as His Sister

Perhaps the most perplexing and unexplainable aspect of Johnson’s First Take interview is his multiple assertions that he thinks of Jeanie Buss as his “sister”. Yet, in the past month-and-a-half, Johnson quit as PBO notifying Jeanie via the media with no notice, refusing to tell her the grievances he specifically held despite inquiry.

He also decimated his “sister’s” franchise on national TV and hurt her ability to make her family business succeed in the future as the Lakers attempt to remove the large buss that Johnson threw them under going forward. These would not be the actions of most against one’s worst enemy, let alone a member of one’s “family”.

If these were the actions of Johnson as he attempted to lead the Lakers as PBO then his resignation may truly have been addition by subtraction. Of course, this can only be the case if Johnson decides to actually leave. If Johnson’s First Take appearance is any indicator, it appears that he can’t help himself whether his divisive statements make any actual sense or not.

By Frank Gaulden (@FrankGaulden)

Top 5 Laker Dysfunctions Magic Revealed


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”.


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)

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.


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:

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:

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.

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”

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.

Frustratingly, The Lakers Are Done for the Season

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Coming off the back of the All-Star break, hopes were high, “play-off mode” had been activated, and the Lakers were set to push for post-season honours. Since then, things haven’t exactly gone to plan, much to the frustration of the fans. The Lakers have recently lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans (without Anthony Davis), Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Denver Nuggets.

The losses to the Grizzlies and Pelicans were frustrating, however dropping a game to the Phoenix Suns was simply humiliating. These dismal run of results have all but put to bed the chances of the team making the playoffs. Even if the Lakers somehow snatched the eighth seed, it would surely be a short lived stay in the post-season. Not exactly an attractive prospect. 

This season has to be considered a complete write off and the fall out will be huge. In addition, Lebron James’ highly documented record of playoff (13-straight seasons) and finals runs (since 2010) will crash to an end.

(Image/USA Today)

LeBron James has been on the receiving end of heavy criticism in the last few weeks. Some of it justified, some of it far-fetched. Matt wrote an excellent article recently for Lakers Fanclub UK on who is to blame within the Laker organisation. Whilst I agree with parts of the article and disagree with others, the one main aspect that we can all agree on as Laker fans is that this season has been a disappointment.

Moving forward there will be a huge amount of pressure on the front office, including Jeanie Buss. In my opinion, the Basketball Operations side of the organisation needs to be re-structured. Laker fans have suffered mediocrity for far too long now and it has to stop. It is fantastic that Lebron James chose to finish his career in Los Angeles, however he and his camp are not bigger than the franchise nor will they ever be. James has signed a three-year contract with an option for a further year, consequently this is not like the situation in Cleveland where year-on-year he can hold the team to ransom.

From a stats perspective James is having a very good season, there is no doubting that, averaging a near 27-point triple-double. These are impressive stats, but do not tell the full story. James is now 34-years-old and at times, he looks it. From time-to-time, he lacks the explosiveness that he previously possessed, and his low effort on defense is concerning.

(Image/Los Angeles Daily News)

With a large cache of free agents to pursue in the summer, who do the Lakers go for, and realistically who do they have a chance of signing? There is a narrative floating around that stars do not want to play with LeBron, and that may be the case. Although, Lebron is starting the twilight years of his career and he will not be around for long. Something needs to be done, moves need to be made to make this franchise relevant again.

The trade talks for Anthony Davis is evidence that Magic Johnson is in a difficult position. He did not want to be accused of not trying hard enough to get Davis, especially having previously missed out on Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. The scrutiny he has received for going “all in” can be justified, making himself and the organisation appear desperate.

There will be a great deal of upheaval in the summer for the Lakers’ front office with expiring contracts, and (most likely) a new coach/backroom staff to hire. The biggest challenge facing Magic Johnson and co. will be the task of establishing a winning mentality as soon as possible. Even through signing star players, acquiring such culture does take time and is something that the Lakers organisation have not experienced for a number of years now.


Whilst acquiring a star to play alongside LeBron James will be the quickest route to success, could it be time for an aging James to step-back and allow such addition to take the reign. Just like Dwayne Wade did in 2011 when James joined Miami. Would that be more appealing for prospective free-agents? Maybe it would be, only time will tell.

To sign off, I would like to wish Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka luck. They’re going to need it!

By Dave Keenan (@AzumaDriver)