clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Magic Johnson’s exit gives the Lakers a chance to clean house and modernize around LeBron James

New, comments

On one hand, the Lakers are devoid of leadership abruptly and without warning. On the other, they have an opportunity that has literally never been granted before.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Magic Johnson, who didn’t inform anyone of his decision to step down as president of basketball operations before he told the media, has just given the Los Angeles Lakers his best gift since LeBron James signed last summer. They have an opportunity to completely rethink everything, and with such an embarrassing impetus to do so that they really don’t have a choice.

For years, the Lakers have operated from a place of such exceptionalism that the very concept of outside-the-box thinking didn’t seem to dawn on them. Not when they could do things the Laker Way instead.

Now, that ideology has netted them a leadership vacuum at the very top of the basketball operations team, and vastly more questions now than when Magic woke up Tuesday morning.

If this won’t knock the Lakers out of the clouds, quite frankly, nothing will.

When you think about it, though, there’s no one left to continue with this idea that in order to succeed as a Laker, you have to have previously been one. Quite arguably the greatest Laker of all time just literally just quit without informing owner Jeanie Buss of his decision. Former Lakers won’t be lining up to sully their legacy in ways Johnson did just now, and Byron Scott did in the years before Luke Walton was hired.

Back to the point at hand, though. Once you get past all the noise emanating from Johnson’s 40-minute presser and consider where the Lakers are right now, this could potentially be the ultimate turning point in the history of an organization desperate for one.

Consider what they have to work with:

  • That LeBron guy
  • A young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma
  • Space for one max player this summer
  • Reason to move on completely from hiring people just because of their relationship to the Lakers or relationship to former Lakers (hi, Rob)

You know how many teams would happily line up for a rebuild with those first three lines? And how many executives will be praying for a call to merely interview for the opportunity to work with all that?

Yes, the chips seem not just down right now, but scattered all over the damn globe. But if she really thinks about it, Jeanie Buss is operating from a position of strength still, with enough time between now and the actual offseason to re-stabilize the entire organization at the very least, if not completely re-invigorate it altogether.

Buss can step into the team offices tomorrow with a completely blank slate. Magic was always the first domino that had to fall and now that he’s stepped aside, she has free reign to catch the Lakers back up to a league that has lapped them in recent years.

Should Buss opt for this direction, there are any number of positions in the organization that need to be reevaluated beyond the job Magic just vacated (and Pelinka’s, should she make that call as well).

Analytics department? Hire the best.

Training staff? Sorry, Mr. Kardashian trainer guy.

Medical team? Bring in a maester for all I care if it’s an improvement.

The point here is that the nepotism, cronyism, and sycophancy have to all end here. This is just about as embarrassing a blow a professional organization can take. A man whose statue stands outside the arena just walked away from what many would consider a dream job in part because he wanted to tweet.

And again, they’ll get to make these changes with the safety net that is the remnants of the team Johnson (and hopefully Pelinka) left behind. This situation, where the Lakers can rebuild their organization to regain the advantages they held under Dr. Jerry Buss while already employing one of the game’s greats and potentially another all star this summer is completely unique, and it’s on Jeanie to take advantage in the ways that her father would.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.