When the Los Angeles Lakers revealed that vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak had been fired in one fell swoop, the only thing that came as a shock was the method and the timing. The writing was on the wall for the tenure of those two when Jeanie Buss brought Magic Johnson back to the franchise as an advisor and he proceeded to go on a media campaign describing how he wanted Jim's job.
Still, firing the Jim Buss and Kupchak just days before the trade deadline in a brief press release that simultaneously announced Magic Johnson as the team's new president of basketball operations was still a shock to the system for fans, media and the NBA community alike.
However, while the move may have been surprising to those on the outside, it sounds as though this move may have been in the works for a while. The always plugged-in Ramona Shelburne revealed a list of names Buss was considering for the job of rebuilding the Lakers in her giant report on the Buss' family feud Wednesday, and one of the names is at least a little surprising:
With Johnson's and Pelinka's hirings now official, Jeanie Buss knows there are those who wish she would've looked outside the franchise and her circle of trust to remake the Lakers. She has heard from all of them in the past few months. But there were only ever four men who had the stature and level of respect from her to be entrusted with this task: Johnson, Jackson, Jerry West and Kobe Bryant.
West is held in high esteem, but he's currently under contract with the Golden State Warriors.
Jackson became less and less of an option the more settled he became in New York and certainly by the time they announced the end of their relationship in December.
Bryant is too fresh off his playing career and deep into his business pursuits. But it's worth noting that he met with Buss and Rambis in February to give his opinion on the state of the franchise. He also advocated for Pelinka, his former agent, who will take over as the Lakers general manager.
That left Johnson, who was probably Buss' first choice, anyway.
Johnson, given that he had already been brought back to the organization as an advisor and his aformentioned media tour, wasn't nearly as surprising of a choice as any of those other three names would have been. Especially Bryant, whose return to the Lakers as an executive running a team that he suited up for less than a year ago would have been one of the most shocking stories in NBA history.
How Bryant would have done as an executive would have been endlessly fascinating to watch, and Jeanie's interest in him makes it at least possible he may show up with the team at some point.
For now, Johnson and Pelinka will run the show, but the list once again demonstrates that (for better or for worse) the Lakers are focused on using figures that have had success for them in the past to return the franchise to glory.