Since Jeanie Buss took command as the controlling governor of the Los Angeles Lakers, the main decision-makers have been a small group of Buss’ most trusted friends, including Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka, and Kurt Rambis. Johnson was officially the team’s president of basketball operations from Feb. 2017 to April 2019.
When Johnson stepped down from his official role with the team in an impromptu press conference, he remained in Buss’ trusted inner circle, despite not even telling the Lakers about his decision. From there, he served as a public ambassador, oftentimes discussing the Lakers’ decisions via social media.
But as it turns out, his influence ran even deeper than expected, as Buss still frequently calls Johnson for advice on roster decisions, especially during more difficult times, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic:
“To me, he’s still working with us,” Buss said. “In terms of an official capacity, in the NBA, you have to be very clear as to who can negotiate on your behalf and who can’t. So he doesn’t have that official designation. But in terms of his support, his wisdom, his insight, I freely call on him as needed.”
When the Lakers were struggling in early December, injuries derailing what was supposed to have the potential to be a championship season behind James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, she consulted Johnson about the direction of the team.
“I just sat down with him,” Buss told The Athletic, “and I said, ‘Should I be concerned? What are you seeing?’ And he just talked about, you know, the injuries and that the team hadn’t had a chance to be together. … So, you know, he’s very calm and insightful. And it, you know, I appreciate his seeing the big picture instead of reacting to every game.”
It’s not uncommon for NBA governors to have trusted inner circles that go beyond people with actual decision-making power. However, it’s rare for those people to have already been with the organization. Johnson struggled mightily as an NBA executive, despite a deep knowledge of the sport.
Johnson and Rambis — two of Buss’ main confidants — have had highly public flameouts as executives in NBA organizations. It’s possible that this could be the stem of some of the dysfunction we see today within the Lakers.
Regardless, Buss is going to continue to trust Johnson as needed. If he does have influence over decision-making, the only hope is that they find a way to turn things around before the LeBron James era ends in L.A.
Anthony Davis feels weight lifted off Lakers after passing trade deadline
The Lakers’ top decision-makers opted against making any moves at last week’s NBA trade deadline. And while there were rumors of the players clamoring for a trade, it appears the chemistry within the locker room has improved since Thursday.
Anthony Davis spoke about why this may be the case. “So that’s just my personal opinion,” Davis added. “But I think when that time had passed, we had practice, we realized, this is our team, nothing’s going to happen, let’s do it. And guys had a little bit more swag today, a little more confidence, more energy. Played with more of a purpose. If we continue to play like this for the rest of the season, then I think we’ll put ourselves in a good position to be successful.”
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