Thursday, April 9, marked the one-year anniversary of when Magic Johnson announced that he was stepping down as president of basketball of operations for the Los Angeles Lakers in an impromptu press conference before the team’s season finale against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center. No one knew that Johnson was going to step down — not even Jeanie Buss, his longtime friend and the team’s controlling owner.
That day was a new low point for the Lakers, who were already facing a mountain of criticism for the trades they made (as well as the one they didn’t make) at the trade deadline, and because they failed to end their playoff drought with LeBron James on the roster. Prior to last season, James hadn’t missed the postseason since 2006. During his 13-year playoff streak, he made the NBA Finals nine times, including eight consecutive times from 2010 to 2018.
Fast-forward a year later, and the Lakers — now led by Rob Pelinka — have clinched their spot in the postseason with a record of 49-14, which is the best record in the Western Conference and the second-best record in the NBA. The question is: How did we get here?
To answer that question, we have to look back at everything that has happened since the day Johnson resigned — well, at least all of the important stuff.
- Magic Johnson resigned as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations after a little over two years.
- The Lakers and Luke Walton mutually agreed to part ways after three seasons. They also fired their head athletic trainer Marco Nuñez after another injury-riddled season. Nuñez took over for Garry Vitti in 2016.
- The Lakers started interviewing several candidates for their head coach position, including Juwan Howard, Monty Williams, Jason Kidd and Tyronn Lue.
- Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the Lakers were preparing to offer Lue the head coaching job. That report, combined with the fact that Lue was surprised with a Lakers-themed birthday cake for his 42nd birthday, made it seem like Lue to Los Angeles was a done deal.
- Two days later, Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin reported that negotiations had fallen apart after Lue and the Lakers couldn’t agree to terms of the contract. According to the report, Lue wanted a five-year deal and the Lakers only offered him a three-year deal. Lue also reportedly had a problem with the fact that the front office wanted to make Jason Kidd part of his coaching staff.
- With news that the Lakers wanted Kidd to be part of the organization, and rumors that Kurt and Linda Rambis were heavily involved in the coaching search, Lakers fans staged a protest outside of Staples Center and chanted things like “Fire Rambis.” Meanwhile, the Lakers had added a handful of new names to their coaching search, including Lionel Hollins, Mike Woodson and Frank Vogel.
- The Lakers sign Frank Vogel and make Jason Kidd an assistant coach.
- Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports the Lakers won’t replace Magic Johnson with a top basketball executive. Instead, Pelinka will play a bigger role in the team’s basketball operations and report directly to ownership.
- The Lakers land the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft with just a 9.4% of cracking into the top-four. The New Orleans Pelicans land the No. 1 pick.
- The New Orleans Pelicans agree to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a package of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, two future first-round picks and a pick swap.
- In their pursuit of a max slot in free agency, the Lakers trade Jemerrio Jones, Isaac Bonga and Moritz Wagner to the Washington Wizards. Marc Stein reports that the Lakers are targeting Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard in free agency.
- Nothing happened and the Lakers lived happily ever after.