The Los Angeles Lakers fired the two highest ranking members of their front office on Tuesday morning — two days before the NBA trade deadline — an unorthodox move to say the least.
It sounds like new Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson will be calling the shots until then. While he acknowledged his phone has been ringing with trade offers during an appearance on Spectrum Sportsnet following the announcement of the team’s regime change, it sounds like fans panicking that he may package a few of the team’s younger players in a desperate, win now might be able to relax.
“We have some really talented guys, they've gotta get better,” Johnson said. “We will use the end of this season and work on that, and then the offseason they've gotta go to work.
“We have a lot of nice, young pieces on this team,” Johnson continued. “We have to develop these young pieces, and I love Luke. I think that he was the right pick, the guy is a gym rat, he knows basketball. He's the right coach to develop our young players, we're headed in the right direction with his leadership, and I wanted to work side-by-side with him as well.”
Johnson reiterated the same talking point later when speaking with reporters at the team’s practice facility Tuesday afternoon:
Magic: “It’s not going to be an easy fix. It’s going to take time. But we have really good young talent - we need to develop (it)."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 21, 2017
"Our untouchables are our young talent," Magic Johnson on trades. They've told teams that. Says most calls have been about Lou Williams.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) February 21, 2017
Now, Johnson could simply be trying to drive up leverage in possible trade negotiations, but his setting the rhetoric so blatantly as being about how the team needs to have patience and develop the promising young players his predecessors selected is notable because it makes it seem less likely the Lakers are actively looking to deal them.
There are still a few days to go before the trade deadline, but for now it seems like the Lakers are sticking with a ground-up, patient rebuild (despite Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss reportedly being fired for not acquiring DeMarcus Cousins).
All quotes transcribed via Spectrum Sportsnet. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.