The dust has settled from the front office takeover at the Los Angeles Lakers organization on Tuesday, where co-owner Jeanie Buss relieved Mitch Kupchak and her brother – Jim Buss – of their duties, and introduced Hall of Famer and Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson as president of basketball operations. Buss was in his 12th season as executive vice president of basketball operations while Kupchak was in his 17th as general manager.
Lakers fans have been waiting for this to happen for a while now. Since former Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss passed in 2013, which was the last time the team was in the NBA playoffs with a 45-37 record, the team has been in a downward spiral with their season records, conference standings, and their relevance in the National Basketball Association.
In 2014, Jim Buss promised to resign if the Lakers were not in contention in “three or four years“.
The Lakers have missed the playoffs in three straight seasons since that promise, including last year when they finished with a franchise-worst 65 losses. This season, Los Angeles is 19–39, which is the third worst record in the NBA.
Jim and Mitch’s presence had marquee free agents shun meeting with them. The Lakers are not a small-market team, so why are they operating it like one? It’s known as a marquee franchise in the NBA, and it’s falling way short of that distinction.
With Magic Johnson in the front office and arguably the “face of the franchise”, the Lakers can go anywhere but up. Of course, you have all the nay-sayers bring up the facts that he failed as Lakers head coach (1994) and as a late night talk show host in 1998 (Fox Network’s The Magic Hour), so what makes us think that he knows what he’s doing as a Lakers exec? They don’t bring up the tenacity Magic has that made him develop and own Magic Johnson Enterprises, a conglomerate company that has a net worth of $700 million; its subsidiaries include Magic Johnson Productions, a promotional company; Magic Johnson Theaters, a nationwide chain of movie theaters; and Magic Johnson Entertainment, a film studio. Plus, how can anybody get mad at that iconic “killer smile” and the fact that he won five NBA championships with the organization starting his rookie season in 1979?
General managers of the other 29 teams need to be worried and look a their franchise’s top players and wonder if they can fall under the “Magic spell” and make an exodus to Los Angeles and wear the gold and purple. One certain exec who should be losing sleep now is Indiana Pacers’ Larry Bird.
Bird and Magic has been rivals since the two battled each other for the NCAA championship in 1979 when Bird played for the Indiana State Sycamores and Magic was the point guard of the Michigan State Spartans. This competition lasted throughout their professional careers (Bird for the Boston Celtics) and it seems like it will continue while both hold executive roles.
The goal between the two legends now isn’t a championship trophy, but the services of a Top 10 NBA player that suits up for the Pacers. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, small forward Paul George is “hell-bent” on joining his hometown Lakers in 2018.
The four-time NBA All-Star stated he wouldn’t sign a contract extension with any team that acquires him before last Thursday’s trade deadline.
The Los Angeles County native can opt out of his current contract after next season. Therefore, if he was traded to a team other than the Lakers, that team would risk him leaving as a free agent for L.A.
Magic Johnson is luring quality players to come to the Lakers who aren’t even in the league yet. LaVar Ball, father of UCLA’s star guard Lonzo Ball, went on a local radio show in Tucson, Ariz. and commented that Lonzo would only play for the Lakers.
The elder Ball clarified that message later in the day, telling ESPN that he wants his son to learn about the point guard position from Magic Johnson.
The list of quality NBA free agents (restricted and unrestricted) is long and you have to believe that within the next two to three years, few of the players listed below will make think about playing for the Lakers and most of the reasoning is because of the magic of Earvin Johnson.
Serge Ibaka (Raptors) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2017 (He will be 27 years-old)
Nerlens Noel (Sixers) – Restricted Free Agent in 2017 (He will be 23 years-old)
Mason Plumlee (Nuggets) – Restricted Free Agent in 2017 (He will be 27 years-old)
Kevin Durant (Warriors) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2018 (He will be 29 years-old)
Blake Griffin (Clippers) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2018 (He will be 28 years-old)
DeMarcus Cousins (Pelicans) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2018 (He will be 27 years-old)
Gordon Hayward (Jazz) Unrestricted Free Agent in 2018 (He will be 27 years-old)
Paul George (Pacers) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 (He will be 28 years-old)
James Harden (Rockets) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 (He will be 30 years-old)
Russell Westbrook (Thunder) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 (He will be 30 years-old)
John Wall (Wizards) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 (He will be 28 years-old)
Klay Thompson (Warriors) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 (He will be 29 years-old)
DeAndre Jordan (Clippers) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 (He will be 30 years-old)
Tobias Harris (Pistons) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 (He will be 26 years-old)
Enes Kanter (Thunder) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 (He will be 26 years-old)
Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2020 (He will be 27 years-old)
Kawhi Leonard (Spurs) – Unrestricted Free Agent in 2020 (He will be 28 years-old)