The Lakers named Magic Johnson president of basketball operations Tuesday, as one of the most storied franchises in professional sports closes in on its fourth consecutive losing season. Los Angeles also received Mitch Kupchak of his general-manager duties, while Jim Buss will no longer serve as vice president of basketball operations.
None of these moves were surprising.
“The only real surprise was the timing,” Bleacher Report Lakers lead writer Eric Pincus said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They made this move two days before the trade deadline, and I really expected – and I was told – that the changes would come after that.”
Johnson will report directly to Lakers part-owner Jeanie Buss. Pincus expects them to have a wonderful working relationship.
“You got to remember that Jeanie Buss basically grew up with Magic, and he grew up with her, too,” Pincus said. “They’re almost siblings. The relationship that she didn’t have with Jim, she had with Magic – someone that she’s known forever, someone that she trusts, someone that she can communicate with. They’re passionate for the Lakers and they’re passionate for the fans (and will do) what they think is right (in terms of) how to build a team, at least theoretically. But we’re going to find out practically. Everything is theoretical right now. They’re going to have to actually see what can Magic do.
“But Magic is a spokesman,” Pincus continued. “He’s a salesman. He’s a guy who looks good out in front because he’s got a big personality, a big smile. Ever since he joined the NBA, he helped turn the NBA from what it was in the ’70s to what it became in the ’80s, and Michael Jordan helped to make it even more worldwide. Magic and Bird, they saved the NBA back then. He’s here now to try to save the Lakers. I think he’s the right guy for that message. He’s the right guy to pump up the Lakers fans (and) say all the right things. He’s passionate about getting it done right, he’s a good collaborator, and really, over the course of his life, what hasn’t he succeeded in?”
The Lakers won five NBA titles during the Kobe Bryant era but have struggled in recent years. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2012 and have gone 84-220 (.276) over the last three-plus seasons.
Johnson wasted no time getting down to business. He traded point guard Lou Williams to Houston on Tuesday for Corey Brewer and an unprotected 2017 first-round pick.
Pincus does not anticipate any big moves for the Lakers before Thursday’s trade deadline.
“This is a team that is better off losing than winning so they can protect their draft picks,” Pincus said. “I don’t really expect some big blockbuster where some superstar comes to the Lakers in the next two days. That’s for the offseason. If they can find a way to better their lot, I’m sure they will. Magic has had the job for, what, four hours? And he already made a trade.”