Changes may be on the horizon for the Los Angeles Lakers. The return of Magic Johnson has sparked a lot of debate and speculation about whether the team is finally ready to move on from Jim Buss and possibly even general manager Mitch Kupchak.
On Friday, Johnson made a bold statement saying he wants to “call the shots” for the Lakers or at least he hopes that’s what his role with the team will evolve into in the near future.
With Johnson’s recent comments fueling more speculation about the immediate future of the Lakers organization, we asked our expert panel the following question for this week’s Lakers Nation Roundtable:
What do you think Magic Johnson’s role should be with the Lakers?
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):
Personally, I would like to see Magic Johnson take over Jim Buss’ role as executive vice president of basketball operations. Buss said that if the Lakers were not contenders by the end of this season that he would step down, so we will see if he is a man of his word.
But I just think that Johnson has far more basketball knowledge than Buss, and if he is involved in basketball operations, then he can help Mitch Kupchak or whoever is the team’s general manager put together a championship caliber team.
Johnson doesn’t really have any front office experience, so I don’t think he’s qualified to replace Kupchak as the gm, but I do think that he needs to be involved with the basketball operations in some way.
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane)
Tough question. It’s clear that things haven’t quite gone according to plan in the Lakers front office and that something needs to change. However, Magic Johnson’s comments can sometimes come across as a bit out-of-touch, with the most recent example being his assertion that the Lakers are one superstar away from competing with the likes of the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. The NBA is changing rapidly, and with a new CBA taking effect, teams that can adapt and pivot quickly will be the ones most likely to find success. It’s a brave new world and one that is now tilted towards building teams through the draft. Given that reality, I’m not sure that Magic is the guy who should have the final say in the Lakers front office.
That said, the Lakers have had issues landing free agents and the recent ESPN report from Ramona Shelburne isn’t very complimentary of Mitch Kupchak’s negotiation tactics or salesmanship. That’s where Johnson, who has been as successful in business as on the basketball floor, could be a big help. There would certainly be questions about how he evaluates players and assets, but the bottom line is that Johnson understands the art of the deal, which is important both free agent discussions as well as trades. Additionally, few can speak about Lakers basketball with the same passion as Magic, which certainly won’t hurt to liven up the room during free agent pitches. Warily, I think the addition of Johnson is a good thing overall, as long as he can include modern thinkers into the decision-making process.
The path forward won’t be found by revisiting the past, so the Lakers will have to hope that the most creative point guard ever can display adaptability in the front office as well. Magic should bring change, but time will tell whether or not he will be able to right the ship.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH)
This is a difficult question as there are plenty of different roles for Magic to take. He’s said that he wants to ‘call the shots’ for the Lakers, but my worry for that is his lack of experience in the front office. Outside of Larry Bird, the track record of former players being in charge of all basketball operations isn’t great.
Honestly, I believe that the role Johnson has now, as an advisor, is probably the best one. He has free reign to help anywhere, be it the coaching staff and working with players or the front office giving his opinion on trades and free agents.
The only way I’d be ok with Johnson calling the shots is if he surrounded himself with a great front office crew that could make up for his lack of experience and knowledge with the CBA and the salary cap, and even that is a bit of a stretch. I think Magic taking on a role similar to what Jerry West does with the Warriors would be the best usage of him.
Nick Torres (@Nickotee)
Let me begin by saying I was very happy when the Lakers announced Magic Johnson to the team in an advisory role. He returns to the franchise that he brought glory to during the 80’s and a beloved fanbase. Now, what should his role be? I am going to go out on a limb here and say he should be one of the primary decision makers on the team. Whether that’s the title of general manager or president of basketball operations remains to be seen.
He clearly has demonstrated he can make effectively calculated decisions by looking at his resume with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He isn’t afraid to take gambles, which I know seems risky considering past decisions haven’t gone too well for the Lakers. The Lakers need a go-getter and Johnson is just that. He will invigorate a fanbase that has been vying to get back to the postseason.
Who knows, maybe he can turn into a Jerry West, who has done a tremendous job as head decision-makers for both the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors. I firmly believe Johnson will become one of the head decision-makers sooner rather than later.