When Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson returned to the franchise as an advisor to team president Jeanie Buss this month, some of his first public comments centered on how he felt he could benefit the team’s efforts to recruit free agents to play in purple and gold.
“Guys know I'm about winning. Guys know I understand them. I think agents now know that 'okay, Magic also knows winning. He knows how to put their players in a winning situation,” Johnson said during his appearance on “Connected with...” on Spectrum Sportsnet when asked if he could help the team’s efforts in free agency.
It’s not surprising that a successful player, businessman and entrepreneur like Johnson would be confident in his abilities at a negotiating table. It’s mostly what he’s experienced during his life, so why wouldn’t he think he could aid the Lakers in convincing free agents to join the team?
It also wasn’t surprising to hear Johnson double down on those comments during an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take”:
Magic Johnson on First Take about Lakers attracting free agents. "If Magic Johnson is in that seat. Guys are gonna want to come play."— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) February 14, 2017
While Johnson might help the Lakers in their presentation, however, they still have the issue of it being harder than ever to convince superstar players to leave their incumbent teams. According to cap guru Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, a player like Stephen Curry (just as an example of the money in play here) would have to turn down upwards of $70 million to leave the Golden State Warriors under the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Lakers won’t be operating at such a steep deficit with all free agents, but the new CBA makes it more important than ever for the team to focus on keeping their own young players and drafting well (something that, to be fair, Johnson seems to understand on some level).
How Johnson will fare as an advisor (or possibly later, as vice president of basketball operations), is a total unknown as of right now, as is the list of free agents the Lakers might ultimately be in play for with Johnson at the table. But while it would be nearly impossible for him to hurt the Lakers’ sales pitch given it’s rather poor success rate during the last several years, those meetings also can’t be the team’s main priority, either.