Blogtable: Lakers hire Magic Johnson for front office role
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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The Lakers have brought back Magic Johnson in a new front office advisory role. Is this a big thing, a little thing, or much ado about nothing?
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David Aldridge: This is a move with an audience of one — Jim Buss, the Lakers VP of basketball ops and the brother of Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ de facto owner. Magic’s disdain for Jim is as well known as his reverence for Jerry Buss, the late patriarch of the family; for Jeanie Buss to hire him even just as an advisor does not bode well for her brother’s future as the guy in charge. It’s impossible seeing Magic looking around the basketball side of the business (by all accounts, the business side is rolling right along as ever) for two months and reporting back to Jeanie Buss, “everything looks great! Carry on!”
Steve Aschburner: A little thing. The Lakers’ place in the NBA’s historic pecking order is at the top with Boston. But this is 2017, and for what’s happening in the league now, they are a dysfunctional family reaching into their past (without any assurances) in a bid just to be relevant again. That’s interesting to a point, but there’s a lot of basketball to be played and business to conduct in the meantime, so how ‘bout the Lakers focus on their workshop and therapy sessions until they’re ready to win, oh, 50 games again some season? Magic Johnson might be a passionate worker but based on his Twitter feed he’s prone to bad evaluations of talent same as a lot of us. When Jerry West comes back to the gold and Forum blue, my curiosity will perk up.
Fran Blinebury: It’s a thing. Yes, indeed. But until Jeanie Buss moves out brother Jim from his role as Chauncey Gardiner, the Lakers will continue just being there.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Little thing that has the chance to turn into a big thing. The Lakers have made progress this season and have more reason in years to be optimistic about the direction. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak are not being shown the door yet. But Magic didn’t return to an official position in the front office to watch while sitting quietly in the corner. Not that it would be possible for him to do that anyway, whether on there masthead or just another fan with a bunch of rings, but certainly not now. He will advise, he will advise loudly, and people will react.
Shaun Powell: It’s a little thing and mostly confined to imagery. Yes, it’s a good look to have Magic back involved with the franchise, but let’s get real. He has no true power, he sold his small ownership share years ago, and he’s only there because of Jeanie Buss, who doesn’t hold personnel sway in the family. Unless Jim Buss surrenders, adding Magic is good PR, but not much more.
John Schuhmann: A little thing. It definitely shakes things up in the Lakers’ front office and it’s probably the first step toward Jim Buss’ eventual departure. But unless Mitch Kupchak is no longer the primary decision-maker, it’s not a huge change. And my guess is that Magic won’t demand that the Lakers get with the times, build up their analytics department, and make more data-based decisions.
Sekou Smith: A little thing until Jeanie Buss cleans house in the front office, and then it becomes a huge thing. Things are set up perfectly for Magic to ride in and rescue the day in Lakerland. There’s young talent in place but it’s not talent ready to for lift off, just yet. Timing is everything in the NBA and Magic’s couldn’t be better. As he enters the mix, the Lakers are in the midst of a culture-shift (inspired mostly by the addition of Luke Walton as coach) that could transform the organization from doormat back to respectability. But all of this hinges on Jeanie Buss doing the right thing, and that’s cleaning out of the executive suite (blood ain’t thicker than purple and gold).
Ian Thomsen: Johnson’s return is important symbolically. But answer me this: Have any major free agents signed with Charlotte because of Michael Jordan? Has Larry Bird recruited anyone to Indiana? Stars who didn’t grow up watching Magic are unlikely to sign with the Lakers because of him. But he can help them create a winning environment so long as he’s willing to be involved more than on a symbolic basis.
Lang Whitaker: A little of each? It’s always a big thing when you can associate your franchise with one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and the greatest player in the history of your franchise. It’s just that from a basketball perspective, there aren’t a ton of decisions to be made that will likely require Magic’s input. Actually, Magic might be able to have a bigger immediate input consulting on the business side of things for the Lakers.
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