Magic Schools Buss: The Lakers are Finally Free to Grow
Magic. It’s in the name.
After the Lakers’ administration was purged after this last All Star break, Earvin Magic Johnson, former Laker and champion, has assumed the position of Lakers’ president. The trade deadline was coming up, but for the Lakers, a switch in board members — not players — was essential.
And for the first time in a few years, I think the Lakers have made some good choices.
Like everyone knows, the Lakers of late have assumed the role of the “Lackers.” Not only is their roster unknown, but they also haven’t had many encounters with victory since Kobe’s achilles injury in 2013.
As a longtime follower of the team, it’s easy to realize that the Lakers are not really relevant anymore. They’re hanging on by the skin of their teeth, breaking new records of bad playing on the daily. To sum it up — this team has no experience, let alone winning experience.
Cue: Johnson’s entry.
Johnson is obviously a legendary Laker. He made history for this iconic franchise, contributing to and earning five championship rings along the way. It’s safe to say he understands what it takes to build the Lakers back up.
Beyond his athletic competence, Johnson has proven he can make decisions. In 2014, he acquired ownership of the Los Angeles Sparks, and in 2016, they won the championship for the first time in 14 years. Because of Johnson’s prior experience with the Sparks and even with the Lakers (part-owner from 1994 to 2010), it seems he is fitting for the president of basketball operations position.
Obviously, Johnson’s new involvement isn’t going to make the Lakers a championship team overnight. Probably not even in a couple of years. It takes time to fix damage — and the Lakers have a lot to repair. That process should start with a clean slate, and in this case, it definitely has.
Speaking of fixing damages, Jim Buss, part-owner of the team with Jeannie Buss, has finally been ousted. After spending 19 years as the executive vice president of basketball operations, he has been forced to move on. Buss has done a poor job of upholding the championship spirit of the team. In an unofficial agreement two years ago, Jeannie and Jim decided he would step down if the Lakers weren’t contenders two years from then. Clearly, the team isn’t even close, so Jim’s loss of control isn’t totally unprecedented.
Furthermore, the low quality of playing can’t all be attributed to the players. Even if you wanted to blame the players, who had a hand in picking those players? Answer: Jim Buss and partner in crime Mitch Kupchak, veteran general manager (who was kicked out in Jeannie’s sweep too).
Mitch Kupchak was fired because his contract was up. He’s had good times as GM, and a lot of bad too, so his departure can’t be characterized as really great or devastatingly bad. For the first half of his 17 years here, the Lakers were stably successful. The second half, not so much. Kupchak has had the chance to pick many of our high draft picks recently, and even though they exhibit a lot of potential, they have hardly seen triumph.
The Lakers are struggling to keep their heads above water and are record-breakingly bad. But they are (very, very, very) slowly rebuilding toward a championship-contending team. They have some seeds in place, and hopefully with the addition of Johnson as president of basketball operations and Rob Pelinka (Kobe’s former agent) as GM, the process of regrowth will speed up.