Magic Johnson taking over as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers was somehow both a surprising and all-too-obvious outcome for both sides. Magic’s love for the franchise is second-to-none, and the Lakers were clearly ready to hit the reset button.
So far so good, even if the Lakers aren’t stacking and racking wins just yet. There’s no question that the air around the franchise feels different. The message coming out of Los Angeles is far more focused, and the team as a whole looks far more united.
Johnson sat down for a 20-minute interview with Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet in an expansive episode of the Connected With... series.
“I think that I'm happy about the growth of the players,” Johnson said as he began digging into a dense 25 games from the Lakers. “Everybody is now just a little bit more in sync with each other. We didn't look too good in exhibition season, and then it took us about a week or two into the season to get to know each other.”
As far as his own experience closing in on one year on the job, Magic is feeling comfortable as the leading voice in El Segundo.
“I think this role is tailor made for me, because being in business... I had to do that with my own company, and then my love for basketball and love for the Lakers. When you look at Magic Johnson in this role, this is a role that I love, and it comes naturally to me.” Magic said.
“Going in I didn't know what to expect, but I think I love the Lakers,” Magic said. I love to win. I'm competitive, so I did a lot of search and homework before I actually took the job, and then still while I'm in this position, doing the same thing.”
As far as what’s been hardest for him as the man everyone must put their faith in, as always, it’s trying to manage expectations of a fan base that is hungry for a return to being a dominant force in the NBA. The flip side of that coin is that he must remain aggressive in maintaining the stance that the Lakers are trending upward.
“Managing expectations from the fans, also just helping the fans understand this is going to take time. I think other challenge is just telling players around the league that we're serious about winning, that things have changed here,” Magic said.
“Nothing really is the same anymore, and I think that Rob and I have done a wonderful job of really changing the narrative and changing the way agents, players, view the Lakers.”
Magic, much like the young roster, led by a young coach, is learning on the fly. From a macro perspective, though, it certainly looks like the Lakers have corrected their path as the culture around the team looks dramatically improved.
Changing the narrative surrounding the Lakers from “Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak grasping at straws” to “Hey this franchise is moving in a cohesive direction” was a huge challenge, but one Magic is on track to have conquered by the time the 82-game season is a wrap.
*All quotes transcribed directly via Spectrum SportsNet