On Tuesday evening, Magic Johnson called an impromptu press conference to announce that he was stepping down as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. No one saw it coming — not even the team’s star player LeBron James, who met with Johnson this past weekend, according to ESPN.
It’s for that reason that James was reportedly one of the many people that were shocked to find out that Johnson was stepping away from the Lakers:
LeBron James was stunned to learn of Magic Johnson’s decision to step down as the Los Angeles Lakers’ president of basketball operations, a source with knowledge of James’ thinking told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne on Wednesday.
But despite Johnson’s abrupt resignation, James stands behind Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and the organization, the source told Shelburne.
While it’s a good sign that James isn’t ready to jump ship in spite of all of the dysfunction within the organization, his continued trust likely depends on the next moves Buss makes, starting with head coach Luke Walton.
It’s been reported multiple times that James and his camp aren’t the biggest fans of Walton, and if Johnson hadn’t stepped down, Walton would probably be gone already. However, now that Walton’s fate is in someone else’s hands, his future is uncertain, surely to the chagrin of James’ camp.
If Walton makes it through this summer, it’s not hard to imagine James losing faith in Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka, who is reportedly expected to step into a larger role in the front office going forward. It’s unknown how James or his camp feel about that sort of change.
That’s not say the front office should just give James what he wants, but if the cost in them doing so is marginal, then they might as well do it. After all, Buss had already given Johnson permission to relieve Walton of his duties before he stepped down on Tuesday.
Needless to say, the front office will have to do more than they’re doing now to ensure they keep James’ trust, which you can argue has probably already been tested throughout this season. It will be interesting to see how this summer affects reports like this one.