Magic goes ‘Trump’ on Luke Walton!
Why Magic Johnson needs to control his Trumpian instincts if the Lakers are to avoid disintegrating into a reality show dystopia
One of Magic Johnson’s greatest achievements and a key to the success of his post-basketball career has been his ability to restrain the ugly and impetuous side of his competitiveness, which at times leaked out via his Twitter feed.
Like the current president of the United States, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson is a man who’s naturally predisposed to speaking his mind, be it to toot his own horn or make a point to his critics. Unlike Donald Trump, however, Magic has learned that using constructive criticism and working together to resolve issues are a better way to motivate and manage employees than screaming or threatening their job security. That’s not how you build trust and chemistry.
Luke Walton is in a tough situation as he was not hired by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka and, along with Brandon Ingram, is one of the last links to the previous regime, where his predecessor Jim Buss and his GM Mitch Kupchak were regularly and often embarrassingly roasted by Magic Johnson via Twitter. Fortunately for the Lakers, Magic apparently learned to restrain his Trumpian tendencies, up until he went full ‘Trump’ on coach Luke Walton.
One of the cardinal rules of a well run organization is to keep internal issues internal, which is not what happened as the confrontation between Magic and Luke quickly blew up on Twitter along with the usual multiple varying explanations of why Magic was upset and how the issues would be resolved. Unfortunately, Magic then doubled down on his message by saying Luke “is going to finish the season, unless something drastic happens, which it won’t.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his suddenly embattled head coach by Magic Johnson. I’d like to think that maybe these were calculated moves by Magic to light a fire under Luke or motivate his players to come to his rescue by playing better but the truth is, despite his earlier comments otherwise, Magic expected the Lakers to get off to a better start to the season than 4–6, forgetting there were major holes in the incomplete roster Luke was given.
The last thing the Lakers or Luke Walton and team need right now is for reality television to take over the Lakers’ locker room. This is not the stable constructive environment of a team that has a well designed plan and the patience, confidence, and skill to execute it. And it’s definitely how you lure elite free agents to come next summer. This is an 82 game season and Magic’s antics 10 games into the schedule simply do not sent the right message.
Magic would have been wiser to sit down with Luke and work together to fix the problems rather than throwing him under the bus. Instead of berating Luke for the team’s problems, why not help him come up with solutions to the problems. The obvious first place to start in the opinion of many is with Luke’s coaching staff. With LeBron James aboard and a new roster focused on winning now, it’s probably the right time to upgrade Luke’s coaching staff.
Telling employees “You’re fired” and taking potshots on Twitter may have worked for Trump but unless Magic wants to see the Lakers turn into an NBA version of the White House, he needs to dial back the Trumpian behavior.