From a PR standpoint, this move makes a ton of sense for the Lakers. Magic Johnson is probably the most likeable superstar the NBA has ever known. Heck, even die hard Celtics fans love Magic (see: Bill Simmons). Over the past two summers, the Lakers have had a TON of money to throw at free agents, but couldn’t even get a seat at the table with any of the stars who were available. By bringing Magic in as President of Basketball Operations, the Lakers will restore some of the luster the franchise lost when Jim Buss was put in charge.
However, the effectiveness of this move by the Lakers will depend heavily on whom Magic hires as his General Manager. On an interview with Stephen A. Smith last week, Magic basically admitted he doesn’t fully understand the CBA and the new salary cap, although he’s been “reading up on it”. Given the complexities of the new CBA, the Lakers need to bring in a GM with the pedigree and experience to work in tandem with Magic and bring the Lakers back to contention.
As a Lakers fan, I’m worried the team is far too often tied to the success they had in the past, and believe that the answer for everything is to bring in a former player who will somehow waive a magic wand and solve all their problems (see: Magic, Kareem, Byron Scott, Brian Shaw, Mark Madsen, Luke Walton…should I go on?). Magic Johnson has already talked about “consulting” with former players like James Worthy, Norm Nixon, Robert Horry, etc. on personnel decisions. This scares me to no end as a Lakers fan, and if James Worthy is the next GM of the Lakers, you might as well light the Staples Center on fire.
If the Lakers were smart, they’d offer the GM position to Jerry West…a proven GM with massive amounts of success across several different front office positions. Pairing Magic Johnson up with Jerry West (and Jerry’s son, Ryan) will give the Lakers new life at the top, and a proven NBA executive in the front office who other players across this league respect. If I’m Jeanie Buss, I’m on the phone with Jerry West right now.