Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss was widely (figuratively) seen as a dead man walking last week when the team announced they had hired former superstar Magic Johnson as a business and basketball operations advisor to his sister, Lakers president Jeanie Buss.
What followed soon didn’t inspire more confidence in Jim’s future, as there were reports he wasn’t even told Johnson would be hired until just before it happened. With how public a critic Johnson had been of Jim over the years, all signs pointed towards the latter being shown the door at the end of this season when his self-imposed deadline to return the team to contention hits.
However, there were signs that pointed the other direction. Johnson gave public assurances that Jim would still be calling the shots, and that he was excited to work with him. Judging by Jim’s comments to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the feeling is apparently mutual:
"I'm taking Magic at face value, that he's here to help," Jim Buss told ESPN. "He's one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Who wouldn't value his opinion? I'm excited to work with Magic for years to come."
To some degree Jim has to say this. If the Lakers ownership/front office was openly feuding it would be a poor look for the team that would make Jim’s job even harder.
That being said, people change. Maybe there is a chance this is more than political correctness from the two. Maybe they can work well together. It doesn’t seem particularly likely, but it’s possible.
No one will really know whether Jim will be working with Magic “for years” in his current position or merely in his capacity as one of the Lakers’ co-owners until this summer, but for now the Lakers are trying to publicly present a united front, which is still a positive step forward for the franchise.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.