“There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson. We are deeply grateful to Magic for all that he has done for our franchise – as a player, an ambassador and an executive,” the statement reads. “… He will always be not only a Lakers icon, but our family.
“As we begin the process of moving forward, we will work in a measured and methodical fashion to make the right moves for the future of our organization.”
While Johnson admitted in his impromptu press conference on Tuesday that he didn’t inform owner Jeanie Buss of his decision to step down before announcing it to the press, Buss – at least publicly – showed no sign that she was angry about the move, though ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne hears from those close to the Buss family that they were “sad, angry, and disappointed.”
“Earvin, I loved working side by side with you,” Buss tweeted. “You’ve brought us a long way. We will continue the journey. We love you.”
Reactions to and additional details on one of the most surprising developments of the NBA season have poured in over the last 12 hours, so we’ll round up many of them in the space below. Let’s dive in…
- Johnson met for three hours with Buss on Monday to discuss the Lakers’ direction and gave no indication he was planning on leaving the organization, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka also visited with LeBron James and agent Rich Paul on Saturday and similarly gave no indication that he was thinking about stepping down.
- Sources tell Ohm Youngmisuk and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com that Buss, Pelinka, CFO Joe McCormack, COO Tim Harris, and manager of special projects Linda Rambis sat down for an “all-hands-on-deck meeting” following Johnson’s announcement on Tuesday night. The Lakers’ franchise is currently “paralyzed” by the news, a team source tells ESPN.
- People close to Johnson say he was “deeply offended” by the constant accusations of tampering that followed him during his two years with the Lakers, writes ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. An ability to once again speak freely about players around the NBA was one factor Johnson cited when announcing his decision.
- Almost in passing, Johnson mentioned during his presser on Tuesday that he “could have led the Knicks when (president) Steve Mills called,” but he considers himself a “Laker for life” (Twitter link via Knicks Film School).
- There have been rumblings for months that ESPN was working on a story that focused on Johnson’s mistreatment of employees and would be “extremely unflattering” for Magic, says Sam Amick of The Athletic. However, Johnson denied that was a factor in his decision to step down. “I know that article is not an accurate article. I can tell you that now,” Johnson said, per Bill Oram of The Athletic. “… Now it’s some disgruntled, former Laker employees (talking to reporters). Yeah, they gonna say (what) they gonna say, ‘cause they wasn’t doing their jobs. So what is a person going to do? Point the finger bad about the person who fired them.”
Luke Walton notes/rumors:
- Luke Walton‘s contract runs for two more years, though 2020/21 is a team option, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Johnson planned to fire Walton before deciding instead to step down, Wojnarowski adds.
- Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports provides additional details on the Walton situation, writing that Magic was displeased with the head coach’s ability to make in-game adjustments and also felt that the coaching staff “lacked the experience and expertise to foster player development.”
- Sources tell Haynes that Johnson wanted to replace Walton during the season, but Buss was reluctant to do so and didn’t give Magic the go-ahead to make a change until recently. Tyronn Lue, Monty Williams, and Mark Jackson would have been primary targets to replace Walton if Johnson had made a change.
- During the infamous early-season meeting in which Johnson questioned Walton’s coaching performance, Magic told the head coach to “shut the f— up” at one point when Walton tried to intervene, says Sam Amick of The Athletic.
- Lakers players and coaches were caught off guard by the news of Johnson’s resignation, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Walton said he found out about thew news when everyone else did, while Sam Amick of The Athletic confirms that LeBron didn’t know it was coming either. “What shocked me is how everybody else is shocked,” Rajon Rondo said. “Because nobody knew.”
- Buss and the Lakers are better off without Johnson, Chris Mannix argues in a column for SI.com.
- In his column for The Los Angeles Times, Bill Plaschke says the manner in which Johnson left the Lakers was as shocking as anything he’s seen during his 25 years covering the team. Plaschke also makes the case that Magic was never all-in on the job.
- While the Anthony Davis saga wasn’t the main reason for Johnson’s resignation, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry couldn’t help but notice that the two heads of basketball operations involved in those trade discussions are now unemployed, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com details. Gentry said he has never seen a situation as “toxic” as the Davis trade request during his time in the NBA. “Not this toxic, no,” Gentry said. “Not that affected two teams. And two guys. One lost his job, and the other one resigned from his job. So no, in 31 years I hadn’t had anything that would equal this kind of fallout. No, I haven’t.”
- In a column for The Athletic, Bill Oram contends that Buss must look outside of her circle of friends to replace Johnson, focusing on the best and brightest NBA executives, since the Lakers’ job is a coveted one.
- Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider-only link) writes that the Lakers need to find an executive who is willing to do the dirty work, appeals to star players, and who can set a positive culture. Pelton points to former Cavs GM David Griffin as one candidate who would fit the bill.