Nepotism certainly is powerful.
Despite having a heavy hand in building a Lakers roster around LeBron James that is one of the few in his career to not make the playoffs, despite quitting without an inkling of notice moments before a game and despite blasting the current Lakers front office after choosing Twitter over the Lakers, Magic Johnson appears to be involved with the Lakers again!
Over the course of the NBA season The Athletic has counted down their list of the 75 greatest players of all-time, profiling each current or former player along the way. On Monday, Magic Johnson was revealed at No. 5 in their rankings. The ensuing profile, written by Lakers beat writer Bill Oram, talked about Johnson’s everlasting bond with the Lakers, including a snippet in which team owner Jeanie Buss reportedly reached out to him this season for advice.
“To me, he’s still working with us,” Buss said. “In terms of an official capacity, in the NBA, you have to be very clear as to who can negotiate on your behalf and who can’t. So he doesn’t have that official designation. But in terms of his support, his wisdom, his insight, I freely call on him as needed.”
When the Lakers were struggling in early December, injuries derailing what was supposed to have the potential to be a championship season behind James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, she consulted Johnson about the direction of the team.
“I just sat down with him,” Buss told The Athletic, “and I said, ‘Should I be concerned? What are you seeing?’ And he just talked about, you know, the injuries and that the team hadn’t had a chance to be together. … So, you know, he’s very calm and insightful. And it, you know, I appreciate his seeing the big picture instead of reacting to every game.”
Given the close relationship between Buss and Magic, this could just be one friend asking another for advice. But when the friend being reached out to is a former front office executive within the franchise, you probably can’t look at the situation in a vacuum.
While it’s unclear exactly what Buss talked to Magic about, it should be noted that it was in December when Buss vowed to not judge head coach Frank Vogel’s performance — whose job was coming under real scrutiny for the first time this season — until the roster was 100% healthy. That message matches the one shared in this piece about players not being available and healthy this season.
It’s also interesting to know how current general manager Rob Pelinka feels about Magic being involved in any capacity. When Magic left the franchise, it was Pelinka who he very publicly called out. And yet, Pelinka went on to deliver a title to the franchise in the first season without Magic. Publicly, Pelinka has been far more cordial to Magic than vice versa, but it can’t feel great that the owner is going back to the man who had less success in your position before publicly bashing you for advice, especially with it coming at a time when Pelinka’s seat is warming up as well.
But it’s also not surprising the Lakers are operating as such. The franchise has long been built on nepotism, choosing to fill the front office with former Lakers versus the most qualified candidates. At times, though, it feels like the Lakers find success in spite of themselves and this certainly fits that bill.