Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson was brought back to the organization to serve in an advisory role on Thursday, and while everyone knows that’s a big deal, no one quite knows what it means.
Johnson himself went on Spectrum Sportsnet in an effort to clarify what he’ll be focusing on, including improving the Lakers’ free agency pitches, and the initial release clarifies that he’ll have a role in both the basketball and business sides of the organization.
However, while Johnson has said Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss will still be ‘calling the shots’ for the team, it remains to be seen how long that remains the case.
Buss was reportedly kept in the dark about Johnson’s hiring until right before it happened, and it sounds like he isn’t the only member of the team’s basketball operations staff whose job might be in jeopardy.
According to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, the team could be looking for a new general manager in the near future as well (emphasis mine):
Obviously Johnson will never be a day-to-day general manager, and the current expectation is that he wants more to be part of a group effort with Jeanie; her youngest brothers Joey and Jesse, who were groomed for more by their father and have had recent success in the organization; a competent basketball operations executive; and head coach Luke Walton, who will unquestionably have an increased voice in all Lakers matters.
Anyone around the NBA interested in filling that basketball operations post should start polishing the resume, even though Johnson has been close with Kupchak for a long time. Johnson is said to have an open mind about dismissing Kupchak to usher in a new era, according to sources.
Johnson said on Spectrum that he talks with Kupchak all the time anyway, and plans to continue doing so in his new role, but this report at least leaves open the possibility that Johnson could be willing to make a change in that department no matter how close the two are personally.
In some ways being able to take personal feelings out of a decision like that would be an admirable trait for Johnson and any executive, but whether he should part ways with Kupchak is another question entirely.
The Lakers front office’s free agency failures, from going after or giving too much money to the wrong players, remain well documented. That being said, the team has acquitted themselves well in the NBA Draft, coming away with Jordan Clarkson and Ivica Zubac in recent second-rounds and grabbing Larry Nance, Jr. late in the first.
How much credit does Kupchak deserve for the positives, and how much blame does he deserve for the negatives? It’s a question Johnson, Jeanie Buss, and whoever else is making decisions for the Lakers will have to figure out this summer after the team misses the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here, or listen to our latest episode about Magic Johnson’s hiring below), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.