This might shock anyone reading, so it might be smart to sit down. The Los Angeles Lakers are looking towards their past to reshape their future. Magic Johnson is already back in the fold, and now we’re hearing another name fans might get excited about: Jerry West.
Per Tim Kawakami of The Mercury News, some people close to West say he’d be “intrigued” by a return to the Lakers if the right deal came along. What such a deal might look like, no one knows, though the opportunity to potentially groom his son, Ryan West (currently working as the Direct of Player Personnel), as the team’s next general manager would certainly seem hard to pass up.
There are issues, though: West is already 78 years old and was recently hospitalized after a fall. Working as a general manager as many would probably want him to would put a lot of stress on him — something he’s spoken to in the past. So coming to L.A. as a full-time GM is probably not in the cards at this point.
There’s also his role in the Warriors organization. He’s been highly influential in the putting together of one of the greatest collections of talents ever seen in American professional sports. Leaving now, as that team seems ready to rip off multiple titles feels like a potentially huge missed opportunity. Now, the counter to this is: his work is already done and that team might not get better than it is right now, but few people walk away from this great a chance at multiple championships.
Another potential problem is the fact that the Lakers already employ people in the jobs he’d likely covet. Jim Buss is already working as the team’s President of Basketball Operations. Mitch Kupchak is still incredibly popular as the general manager. In order for West to step in, one or both of those guys would probably have to go.
And before you point out how Jim Buss probably deserves to be let go, West has repeated he does not want to be the reason someone loses a job.
When Magic was brought back to Los Angeles, the tea leaves seemed to point to sweeping changes coming to the Lakers front office. And make no mistake about this: He will absolutely push for Jerry West’s return.
Maybe Jim takes a step back and becomes a hands-off owner, vacating his Team President position. Has Kupchak done enough to warrant a promotion when it’s been so hard to separate what he’s been responsible for from Jim’s choices? Who knows.
So perhaps Jerry West slides into Jim’s vacated role to work alongside Kupchak. Well, the issue there might be the work Ryan West has put in. People around the league seem really high on his potential as an executive, so might the Lakers have to sweeten the pot to keep the prodigal son around?
Or, what if Mitch takes Jim’s job, Ryan gets a promotion to general manager and Jerry steps in as a consultant to help his son understand what it takes to be successful in such a role? The possibilities with this are pretty endless.
All this — aside from Kawakami’s report — is purely speculative, but speaks to how complicated Jerry West’s potential return might be. As of right now, it’s a fun story and cool hypothetical. His current contract with Golden State runs through July, and nothing can happen until that runs out. But, this could potentially provide an important date for the timeline Jim Buss can’t seem to escape.
One thing’s for sure: there’s never a dull moment with the Lakers, and the next few months will only get increasingly interesting.