The Lakers announced a series of changes to their front office today in a press release, confirming that Magic Johnson will indeed be calling the shots on roster moves going forward. According to the Lakers’ announcement, Johnson has been named the club’s president of basketball operations, while general manager Mitch Kupchak has been relieved of his duties. Jim Buss will also no longer hold the title of executive VP of basketball operations.
“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” governor Jeanie Buss said in a statement. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”
The timing of the moves, which comes just over 48 hours before the 2017 trade deadline, is a little unusual, and it remains to be seen how they’ll affect the Lakers’ moves – or possible lack thereof – this week. It seems Johnson will now be making the decisions on whether or not to move Lou Williams and other trade candidates on the roster by Thursday afternoon.
Since he was named an advisor by the Lakers earlier this month, Johnson has been talking about wanting to assume this sort of role with the franchise. Approximately a week after being hired as an advisor, Johnson said in an interview that he eventually wanted to “call the shots” for the Lakers. The Hall-of-Famer later clarified those comments, but didn’t exactly walk them back, suggesting that he hoped to become the “final decision-maker” on roster decisions, perhaps with a GM in charge of day-to-day business reporting to him. It appears that’s the direction the Lakers are now heading.
While Kupchak figures to be seeking a new job elsewhere in the NBA, Jim Buss will remain associated with the organization as a part-owner despite being relieved of his basketball operations duties, Jeanie Buss said in a statement:
“Jim loves the Lakers. Although he will no longer be responsible for basketball personnel decisions, he is an owner of this team and we share the same goal: returning the Lakers to the level of greatness our father demanded. Our fans deserve no less.”
In the wake of today’s announcement, it’s worth noting once again that Buss said back in April 2014 that he’d step down from his position with the franchise if the Lakers weren’t contending for a title within “three or four” years.