Perhaps no professional sport is easier to remain at the top than it is in the NBA. The salary cap and collective bargaining agreement make it so much easier for teams to remain in tact and only have to worry about filling in a handful of reserve slots each year. However, no sport is also easier to remain in the toilet than the NBA. This is why we are seeing the Los Angels Lakers go all in with Magic Johnson as their person in charge of returning the Lakers to relevancy. Let’s face it, in La La land, if you are not on top, you don’t matter and the Lakers have not been close to mattering for too long.
The question now is not when will Magic Johnson right the Laker ship, but rather, is he the right person for the job of President of Basketball Operations? You need to have more than a love for your franchise to rebuild it. Magic and the Lakers go hand in hand, but for anyone who is a Laker fan, something I have never been or plan to be, you have to wonder if he is even qualified to return them to their next cycle of glory years.
Mitch Kupchak, another diehard Laker of lesser fame, was actually well trained to be the team’s General Manager, but lets face it, he was dealt a crappy hand to play when the Lakers top brass decided to sacrifice team success by rewarding Kobe Bryant one last mega deal, and now they are realizing what many knew to be the case then, it was a huge mistake that would eventually cripple the franchise.
Perhaps Kobe was deserving of one massive final contract because of all he did as a player for the Lakers, however, he was also proven to be someone today’s superstars were not interested in playing with. His drive, his demeanor, and his insistence on always being the man along with his contract made it virtually impossible for today’s social media, image first, and hard work last superstars from wanting to play on the same tam as him.
Because Kobe’s bosses were unable or unwilling to tell him the truth,“If you can find a better deal than a team friendly one from us, take it,” the Lakers are stuck in NBA purgatory. Worse, this has happened while they have seen the Clippers become one of the league’s more popular teams. Kupchak was left to rebuild from scratch, something almost impossible to do in the NBA.
So other than being perhaps the fans all time favorite player, what skill set does Magic bring that will turn this team around? Just last week, Magic admitted his dream was to one day call the shots but that he still had a lot to learn. Is he that quick a study? Not likely. However, it is now all on him because not only is he going to hire Kupchak’s replacement, he does not have to put up with Jim Buss, Jerry’s son who was probably as responsible as any person for destroying the Laker organization.
With Jim gone and sister Jeanie serving as Magic’s boss, look for them to have a better working relationship. While this is vital to any team’s success, it also places that much more pressure of Magic to succeed.
So where do the Lakers turn to from here for a GM? Will Jeanie’s “ex,” Phil Jackson, finagle his way out of the Big Apple and land a role in the Laker front office and bail out the Lakers again? Does Magic turn to some of his former teammates, people who also bleed purple and gold and who he can trust, to serve as his GM?
What about Luke Walton? Will he have the support of Magic or will Johnson look to bring in his own choice for head coach? Does Walton even want to remain part of this project?
forward Corey Brewer and
As you can see, there are far more questions than answers at this point and I have not even addressed the young men who dress in Laker colors but fail to resemble anything close to a team with a bright future.
For as long as I can remember, until just the last few years and a couple of the early post Magic Johnson years, the Lakers have always presented a talented team and in far too many of them, one that was too talented for my liking because they stood in the way of the Boston Celtics. But those days are long gone and if Magic is not equipped for the task of being the team’s PBO, Laker fans better get use to a very long drought between championships. I saw it happen in Boston when the 80’s ended and Laker fans should not be surprised if they do not attend another Laker championship parade for another 15 years.
But heck, what do I know? Like I said, I’m a Celtics fan.
Photos by Claudia Gestro except where noted