Magic Johnson may have left Staples Center following his impromptu press conference to tell the media he was resigning his post as Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations — after telling reporters before he told owner Jeanie Buss, no less — but have we considered the possibility that even though over a week has passed, Johnson never stopped explaining his decision to the press, and is just wandering the streets of Los Angeles to do it instead of roaming the bowels of the arena with the media?
Okay, so that’s probably not what actually happened, but lending credence to the theory is Johnson’s latest interview/ambushing with TMZ, in which he continued to explain his decision to leave, while also confirming that he isn’t totally stepping away:
“No. The same,” Johnson said when asked if he would’ve done things any differently if he had them to do over again. “Everybody knows I love the Lakers, and so I’m gonna always help them. Like right now, I’m gonna still help them. I love my team, I love my franchise, and I love this city.
“You have to do things sometimes on your own terms. It doesn’t matter what other people think, see? And I’m that guy. But I’m still helping them. It’s almost like I never left (laughs). I’m still talking to them every day,” Johnson continued. “I’m gonna help them get the Lakers back right, you can believe that.”
Wait... He’s still talking to them every day? Surely I misheard that. There is no way he actually said that, right?
“I love Jeanie,” Johnson said when asked if everything was still good between him and the Buss family. “I’ve been talking to her almost every day. I’m trying to help. Listen, I may not be in there physically, but I’m still there.”
Well, this would at least seem to confirm the rumors that Johnson is still planning to help the Lakers recruit free agents this summer, and if he’s actually talking to them that frequently, it’s within the realm of possibility that Johnson is even more involved with the Lakers now than he was before he resigned.
This whole situation is actually kind of incredible, and I suppose it’s possible that despite how haphazard it all looks, maybe Johnson is kind of a secret genius. Let me explain.
Johnson is a billionaire. He doesn’t need the reportedly $10 million a year the Lakers were paying him, as absurd as that sounds. Plus, it always seemed as if this was more of a passion project or competitive goal for him than it was a source of income.
Why does that matter? Well, because if Johnson isn’t drawing a paycheck from the Lakers, he can tweet as much as he pleases and show up to the office as infrequently as he wants, all without constantly getting criticized, investigated for tampering or made fun of. Maybe the shadow executive wasn’t so far off, and that while there is no secret candidate to replace Magic Johnson, that’s only because the secret shadow executive IS Magic Johnson. How is that for light years ahead?
Either that is true, or all this is as weird as it seems to be. It’s not surprising that Johnson still has love for the Lakers and wants to help, that’s not what I’m getting at by any means. It’s just weird that the Lakers are seemingly poised to let him, right after he so publicly quit because he got tired of “the backstabbing” and “the whispering” going on.
“I don’t like that. I don’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on,” Johnson told reporters the day he quit.
That is hardly an open endorsement of the Lakers organization, but you’re telling me the guy saying it is the one who can make the most compelling pitch to get free agents to join LeBron James in the Lakers organization? The whole thing just seems bizarre, which shouldn’t be a surprise, really, given that most of Johnson’s tenure in the Lakers front office could be most charitably described as “bizarre” anyway.
Oh, and speaking of James, Johnson addressed him too. The TMZ reporter asked Johnson if there were any truth to rumors that he left because of James — reports that, it should be noted, I personally have not seen anywhere from a reliable source even though it’s my literal job to look for that sort of stuff.
Either way, Johnson sounded genuine when he said there was absolutely no truth to them.
“No, no, no. LeBron was the reason? No. I love LeBron. LeBron is going to lead us to a championship, so we’re excited about what he’s going to do, and we’re also excited that he signed. It’s all good with me and LeBron, and Maverick and Rich Paul. So now all we need is keep going down the same path, get another superstar this summer and we’ll be fine.”
Note his phrasing. “All we need.” Just a little over a week ago, it seemed Johnson and the Lakers weren’t a “we” anymore, but in the continuing soap opera/reality show that is “The Real Housewives of the Los Angeles Lakers,” Johnson is back, proving in the process that every time you think things can’t get stranger for this team, they do.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.