Magic Johnson’s ascension to the Lakers‘ president of basketball operations hasn’t been met with universal praise. Sam Amick of USA Today recently summarized Johnson’s promotion, emphasizing the necessity of Magic recruiting elite players in free agency.
“If this massive move is going to pay off, it’s Johnson’s ability to attract and select the right talent that will determine his value,” Amick wrote. “But if Magic shoots an airball on the free agency recruiting front in July, perhaps suffering the same fate as the Lakers’ jettisoned basketball execs who couldn’t convince Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, then he’s just another inexperienced former player who is learning on the job.”
For what it’s worth, Johnson will enter the position with a powerful NBA figure supporting him. In an interview with Harvey Araton of The Vertical, Heat president Pat Riley gave Magic his full endorsement.
“Why shouldn’t Earvin get an opportunity?” Riley said. “Earvin is a guy who has been a prolific businessman…he’s gone into companies and changed management, changed the culture. He’s charismatic, gets up in front of people and puts an immediate face on an organization. To me, it’s a no-brainer that Earvin was given that position to capture the attention of the people in L.A. and to try to recapture that sense of continuity.”
Riley’s connection to Johnson has been well-documented. As head coach of the Lakers, Riley coached Magic to four NBA titles, calling Johnson “The smartest player I ever coached.”
“To adamantly say Earvin is not qualified is nonsense. Like Jerry West, he’s a prodigal son of the Lakers,” Riley added. “With everything that goes on, who knows how long he’s going to be there? And it’s not going to happen for him this year, or even in two years. But if they keep their [top-three protected] draft pick, with the young players they have, and Earvin’s reputation in that market, he’ll have a chance.”