On Feb. 21, 2017, Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss orchestrated a major shakeup in the team’s front office, ousting general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, replacing them with Magic Johnson.
Assuming the title of president of basketball operations, Johnson set about his task of rebuilding the once-great franchise. The move was a shocking one, but the general consensus was that change was needed.
Jim Buss had given himself a deadline to bring the team back to contention and clearly was not going to make it, and he and Kupchak had handed out head-scratching long-term contracts to Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng during the summer.
Those deals would hamstring the Lakers’ ability to make moves, and would ultimately lead push Jeanie to make a change.
Johnson, who had been working as an advisor for the Lakers, would have little time to acclimate to his new role. The trade deadline was just two days away, and a number of difficult decisions would have to be made.
In his first two moves at the helm, Johnson traded Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Corey Brewer and a first-round pick in the 2017 Draft, which was ultimately flipped on draft night to acquire Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant.
The Lakers would eventually bring in Kobe Bryant’s former agent, Rob Pelinka, as general manager to help fulfill Johnson’s vision for the team. There was optimism that the magnetic Johnson and savvy Pelinka would find success where Jim Buss and Kupchak had failed, and provide young head coach Luke Walton with a team that could put the organization back on the path to relevance.
Some criticized Jeanie Buss for again turning to the team’s past by asking a Lakers legend to right the ship, but Johnson would have an opportunity to put his stamp on the team that he became synonymous with as a player.
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