From the team’s problems recruiting free agents to handing out bad contracts to the ones they do sign, endless reasons have been given for the Los Angeles Lakers posting the three worst seasons in the history of the franchise over the last three years, with a fourth lottery trip currently in progress.
According to new Lakers advisor Magic Johnson during an appearance on ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith’s radio show, the reason for the team’s current position is even simpler.
“To me, the Lakers are still five, six years in the past,” Johnson said, before offering a few solutions.
“We gotta move up to what basketball is. Spread game. Shooters. Also the analytics,” Johnson continued. “The thinking of what franchises are doing today, because we’re not there yet. We’re way behind these [other] franchises.”
The Lakers came under fire over the last several seasons for lacking in the analytics department, but with a new, more analytics-friendly coach and a beefed up staff that would appear to be slightly less of an issue going forward.
Johnson has also been vocal about his desire to bring in Kobe Bryant, and he told Smith he also wants other former Lakers to help the team move into modern times, irony (apparently) not intended.
On what type of role he would want to give Bryant:
“Not a role where’s he’s working everyday, because that’s not what he wants and that’s not who he is. He’s got his business that he’s building, but what I would want him to do is say, ‘Hey, Earvin, I watched the game or I watched film, maybe this player needs to work on this, or can I come I come to practice and maybe for a day’ or for an hour of his day, could come work with a couple or our guys. Not jut on the court, but also give them tips and advice. Or, break down film and say hey, ‘I think this guy should be working on this or that’. So, whatever it is that he would want to do. Not an every-day job. That’s not what we’re talking about, just be a part of it.
“I’ve been a part of the Lakers while I’ve been building my own business trying to give advice and give tips. I would call Mitch every now and then or he would call me or ask me for advice. I want to have that same type of relationship, if I’m a part of the Lakers, with Kobe saying ‘hey, what do you think? What do you see? Can you come down and talk to the guy, or can you come down and work with the guys? Or can you work with some of them in the summertime?’
“So, those are the things that I’m talking about, because you’re talking about a five-time champion, but more importantly, you’re talking about a guy who took his game and became one of the greatest ever, by working hard every single day in the gym in the summertime, but also in practice and then that translated to him becoming one of the greatest we’ve ever seen, of all time. It would be stupid for me not to pick up the phone and talk to a guy like that.”
On other former Lakers lending a hand with the rebuild:
“I would want to involve other guys who have played for the Lakers. Give me some advice. Give me some tips. What do you see? What do you don’t see? James Worthy has been a part of this, because he’s been broadcasting the games (since) before it was Spectrum, on Time Warner Cable. I can keep going. Guys who — Robert Horry — guys who have knowledge of the game that can say ‘Hey, Earvin, do this. Or I seen this. Or this guy needs to do this.’
“That’s what you want, because look at what San Antonio has going on. They’ve still got Tim Duncan involved. David Robinson is still involved. George Gervin is still involved. So, you can get advice from those champions that I just talked about, and RC Buford — him and Popovich, you want to mirror somebody, that’s who you want to mirror. You want to mirror somebody, you want to mirror Golden State, what they have going on right now. So, I’m looking at these organizations and we gotta come up to 2017 and do some of the things that they’re doing.”
Bringing in Bryant and other former Lakers to lend advice to the current roster could hardly be a bad thing, but it also can’t be Johnson’s only solution to bring the team he’s criticizing as behind the times into the present.
The Lakers will also (probably) have to continue to beef up their analytics department and make other off the floor infrastructure additions that the second-most valuable team in the NBA can surely afford.
Johnson has also spoken about the need for the Lakers to retain their own free agents rather than attempting to poach other team’s superstars, so maybe he is on the right track towards getting at how a modern NBA organization is run.
Only time will tell for certain, so fans will just have to be patient and wait even as Johnson continues his media tour and more details trickle out of his ultimate plans and goals for the Lakers.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.