With the goal to excel in the future, the Lakers have called upon a legend from the past.
Tuesday morning, it was announced that Earvin “Magic” Johnson has been named President of Basketball Operations, while also relieving General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss from their duties as leaders of the front office.
The moves were made by Co-Owner and Governor Jeanie Buss, who joined Johnson — previously named an advisor to ownership early this month — on Spectrum SportsNet later in the day to discuss the future of the franchise.
Since Jim Buss was appointed to his position following the 2013 death of former Owner Dr. Jerry Buss, the Lakers have compiled an 84-220 record in three full seasons, plus the current one.
Thus, Jeanie Buss felt that a change of direction was needed to return the franchise to its winning ways.
“The purple and gold standard really dictated that the status quo wasn’t acceptable to go from (27) wins to 21 wins to 17 wins — to watch it erode like that wasn’t Lakers basketball,” Buss said. “It wasn’t wasn’t this organization stands for, so it was time for a change.”
That change has come in the form of Johnson — a five-time champion as a player and former minority owner and head coach of the Lakers.
With the trade deadline approaching Thursday, Johnson is handling calls from general managers from across the league regarding potential transactions.
He is also searching for the Lakers’ next GM, whom he says must have extensive knowledge of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement and salary cap, as well as relationships with players, teams and agents across the league.
Johnson said that he is aiming for a fast process that will result in a new general manager before the end of the season
Meanwhile, Jeanie Buss said that Johnson’s hiring has much more to do with what he can do for the team’s future than the success he has guided in its past.
“This isn’t about going back to Showtime,” Buss said. “We’re not trying to turn back the clock. The Lakers have figured out how to win in every era. … This isn’t about going to the past and recreating Showtime, because you can’t recreate Showtime.
“That was a unique period in Lakers basketball. This is about the future and finding the right team for the style that Luke Walton wants to play.”
Both Buss and Johnson were complimentary of the work Walton has put in so far, as well as that of the team’s young players, specifically Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac.
“I think that (Walton) was the right pick,” Johnson said. “The guy is a gym rat. He knows basketball. He’s the right coach to develop our young players. We’re heading in the right direction with his leadership, and I wanted to work with him as well.”
Buss and Johnson expressed excitement about the future of the franchise, also relaying that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reached out to Buss to show his support of Johnson.
For the time being, Johnson acknowledges that returning the organization to contention for a 17th title will take some time. But, he said, it will be done in the correct manner.
“It’s gonna takes us a while,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to fool the fans. We’re gonna build this the right way. It’s not a quick fix — I’m not a quick fix. I’m can’t turn it around tomorrow or I really would be Magic.”