When Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss hired Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations, it was well-known that they were close, but as anyone who has worked with people they’re close to knows, that isn’t always the easiest arrangement, and it can strain even the strongest relationships when there is a shift in the power dynamic.
It doesn’t sound like that’s been the case for Buss and Johnson, or at least not so far, based on her description of their bond during an appearance on the “Sports Business Radio Road Show” podcast (as transcribed by Dave McMenamin of ESPN):
”We’re as tight as any two people, any two executives,” she said. “And we have a mission and a purpose of what we want to do and we’re not done yet. But I think we’re going in the right direction.”
Buss has now talked several times recently about how much she wants to get the Lakers back to the standard they were held to under her late father, Dr. Jerry Buss, and it’s clear that the way this season — a season in which the team was supposed to finally be done rebuilding — has gone has bothered her. It also sounds like the Lakers’ results on the floor this year aren’t the only thing that’s rubbed here the wrong way.
”There was a story that came out this season - and we’ve had our challenges this season - and it kind of made me doubt for a second some of the people that I was working with,” Buss said.
Buss has spoken a lot about the media this year, calling rumors about the Anthony Davis saga “fake news,” and more recently saying that other reports about the Lakers being interested in LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers were “completely not true.” How far this season’s narrative has spun out of control this year seems to have taken a toll.
However, Buss said that rather than allowing the doubts created by the story she referenced above to fester — she didn’t specify which story it was — she used the moment as an opportunity to make sure she was on the same page as the people she works with:
“Instead of calling the media who were reporting it, I sat down with the people that I work with and had face-to-face communication and realized that that was what we’re dealing with now in this day and age, that the stories come so fast and furious that they try and get you off-base. And they get you off from the direction that you’re headed,” Buss continued on the podcast.
”And you’ve got to have faith in the people that you’re working with and that trust and communication, and that comes with face-to-face time. Because texting and email can lose context and tone. And you need to look somebody in the eyes and really restore your faith and restore your direction. And that’s important for leadership.”
That’s probably the right tactic for Buss to take, because she can’t possibly respond to every rumor reported about this team. There is simply too much media covering the Lakers from various angles for that to be possible or reasonable. What she can do, though, is make sure that everyone in her organization — and those they’re working with — is of a like mind on what they’re revealing publicly, what the plan for the team is and everything else in between.
It would be interesting to know which people she’s working with — that phrasing doesn’t necessarily mean the person is part of the team, as there are plenty of agents and other third-parties who do business with the Lakers — that she started to doubt, but it was also probably smart of her not to reveal that on a podcast. And whether Buss was able to use the moment as an excuse to reconnect with members of the organization heading into what promises to be a critical offseason, or if it just led her to realize who she can and can’t trust, it seems that either way her momentary doubt might ultimately end up being a good thing for the Lakers.