The Los Angeles Lakers may have lost on Tuesday night, but the team still has things pretty good. At 24-4, the Lakers are in first place in the Western Conference and tied with the Milwaukee Bucks — the team they will play on Thursday — for the best record in the entire NBA. And like Kobe Bryant at the end of a Nike commercial, former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson just wants to say “you’re welcome.”
Johnson spoke with Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times recently while giving out bikes to children at a community center (an admirable thing, to be sure) and wanted to make certain that he also is getting some of the credit for this hot start the Lakers have gotten off to right after he left:
”This team would not be in the position it’s in without me,” he says.
He talks about the trades he and Pelinka made to clear the salary cap space to sign James, notably the dealing of Timofey Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell. He talks about his recruitment of James. He talks about the players they drafted — Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart — who were included in the deal for Anthony Davis.
”This was my strategy, this is what I thought we’d be in three years,” he says. “I knew we were on the right track. Everybody wanted to do it their way, but I’m good with who I am. … I think people respect what I’ve done for the team.”
Truly some #LightYears stuff here. Johnson actually drafted those guys to trade them, definitely not to break all of his records, no sir. And certainly no one else would have been bold enough to try and trade Timofey Mozgov using a former No. 2 overall pick, something other teams have only managed to do in normal salary dumps without being brave enough to attach a good young player to clear the cap space to sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
So yeah, Johnson has a point, as there are at least a few other ways the team has him to thank for how enjoyable this season has been. Let’s list some of them:
- There have been WAY less leaks in the media about various people’s job security, rumored trades, who the team is targeting in free agency or who is the scapegoat of the week since Johnson stepped down. That’s been way more enjoyable.
- The Lakers prioritized putting shooting around LeBron James this summer, helping lead to an MVP-caliber campaign from him at age 34, a roster-building strategy they decidedly did not do when Johnson was at the helm. Way to see that coming and make sure it happened by stepping away, Magic!
- The Lakers got a trade for Anthony Davis done over the summer once Rob Pelinka was put in charge of the negotiations, with the deal coming in relative anonymity compared to the leaks-about-the-package-every-three-hours strategy that was utilized when Johnson was at the helm of the trade deadline. The latter technique seemingly upset the Pelicans enough that they wanted to get rid of Davis, more clear evidence of Johnson’s unparalleled court vision in stepping down and allowing Pelinka and David Griffin to get a fresh, cooler-headed start on the negotiations in July. Another assist for the Magic man!
- Johnson’s resignation was one of (apparently many) things that pissed off LeBron last year, helping lead to his #WashedKing season during the 2019-20 campaign. Way to motivate, Magic!
So there we go. Hopefully Johnson can rest a little easier, knowing that he’s now finally getting the credit he deserves for stepping down to help this team reach the heights it has gotten to.