Magic Johnson

Lakers Won’t Hire Replacement For Magic Johnson

The Lakers will not hire a president of basketball operations to replace Magic Johnson, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne tweets.

GM Rob Pelinka will remain in his role and report directly to ownership, Shelburne adds. Pelinka had previously reported to Johnson.

Johnson stunned the franchise by resigning from his position last month without giving anyone in the organization prior notice. A report from ESPN earlier this week revealed that owner Jeanie BussPelinka, senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis, and executive director for special projects Linda Rambis “operate as a group on basketball decisions.”

The Lakers just hired Frank Vogel as their new head coach after negotiations to bring in former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue fell apart.

With Pelinka’s power seemingly growing, the pressure will be on the former agent to deliver stars via trades or free agency to play alongside LeBron James. The Lakers had good luck in the lottery earlier this week, moving up to the No. 4 pick.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Vogel, Kidd, Front Office

The Lakers are in position to dictate the terms of an Anthony Davis trade and should make an offer with a firm deadline, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN. L.A. made a strong push for Davis before the February deadline, reportedly offering several packages of young players and draft picks for the Pelicans star, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer.

Marks believes getting past the constraints of the regular season could work in the Lakers’ favor as they no longer have to take on an unwanted contract such as Solomon Hill‘s to complete a deal. He suggests offering Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, this year’s lottery pick plus an unprotected first-rounder in 2021 and giving New Orleans a June 30 deadline to complete the deal so it will be resolved before free agency.

Under that proposal, L.A. would use some of its cap space to absorb Davis’ salary, eliminating the opportunity to offer a max deal on the free agent market, but the Lakers would get their second star and still have enough left over to chase second-tier free agents.

There’s more this morning from Los Angeles:

  • If the Lakers can’t land Davis or sign an elite free agent, Marks recommends following the Pacers’ approach and improving the roster through two-year contracts. He identifies T.J. McConnell, Danny Green, Bojan Bogdanovic and Dewayne Dedmon as players who might be willing to take a portion of the available $35.6MM on short-term deals.
  • Because he had to take on Jason Kidd as an assistant, new Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is walking into a situation similar to what LeBron James‘ former coach, David Blatt, faced in Cleveland, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Blatt wasn’t able to earn respect from James, who bonded with former player Tyronn Lue, his top assistant, setting the stage for a coaching change a year later. James and Kidd already have a strong relationship, Windhorst notes, that began when they won Olympic gold medals together in 2008.
  • The Lakers’ awkward coaching search exposes the danger of having too many people trying to run the organization, writes Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. Kurt Rambis is expanding his power as an adviser, and his wife Linda has become a “shadow owner” because of her friendship with Jeanie Buss. Ex-coach Phil Jackson is also contributing ideas, while former team president Magic Johnson has reconciled with Buss and is offering advice as well.

LeBron James Speaks Out About Magic’s Resignation

LeBron James broke his silence on Magic Johnson’s surprising departure as president of the Lakers with strong words for his former boss, writes Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. James’ comments came on the latest episode of “The Shop,” his HBO show, which aired tonight.

“It was just weird for [Johnson] to just be like . . . ‘Nah, I’m out of here,’” James said. “And not even have [a heads-up] like: ‘Hey, Bron . . . kiss my a–. I’m out of here.’ I would have been okay with that. Like: ‘Hey, Bron, it’s Magic. Kiss my a–; I’m gone.’ It wasn’t even that.”

Johnson made the announcement in a session with reporters as the Lakers were preparing for their final game of the season. He didn’t talk to team owner Jeanie Buss or any of the players about his intentions before informing the media.

“We were like, ‘Damn, right now?’ It was literally 70 minutes on the clock before [tip-off],” James said. “[The team] is getting ready for a game. And you decide to do that right here, right now? I feel like there’s a time and place for things, and I believe that you knew you were going to make that decision. So why would you do it here? And why would you do it now?”

James’ reaction confirmed media reports that Johnson didn’t consult with him or agent Rich Paul before making the decision. James refused to talk with reporters after that game and didn’t attend an exit interview so he could be with Dwyane Wade for the last game of his NBA career.

Also on “The Shop,” James recalled Johnson’s recruiting message last summer in which he hoped to build a new version of “Showtime,” the Lakers’ team that dominated the 1980s.

“I came here to be a part of the Lakers organization [after] having a conversation with Magic,” James said. “[He was] really kind of breaking it down and saying how we were going to make this ‘Showtime’ again. I wanted to be a part of that process.”

Lakers Don’t Plan To Replace Magic Johnson

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has no plans for now to hire a replacement for Magic Johnson, Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times report.

Johnson blindsided the organization by stepping down as president of basketball operations two weeks ago. However, Johnson declared that he’s still playing an active role in organizational decisions.

“I love Jeanie,” Johnson said. “I’ve been talking to her almost every day. I’m trying to help. Listen, I may not be in there physically, but I’m still there.”

Johnson is still expected to help woo free agents this summer as the franchise seeks more star power to help LeBron James bring it back to prominence, according the L.A. Times story.

If the Lakers don’t replace Johnson, the power of GM Rob Pelinka will continue to grow. Pelinka is running the team’s search for a new head coach to replace Luke Walton, who was dismissed after the season. The Lakers have already met with former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and Sixers assistant Monty Williams. They’re expected to meet with Heat assistant and Pelinka’s former college teammate, Juwan Howard, on Tuesday.

Magic Johnson Remains Involved With Lakers

Magic Johnson shocked the NBA world when he stepped down as the Lakers‘ president of basketball operations. However, despite the lack of title, he said he still remains involved with the team.

“I’m still helping them. It’s almost like I never left [laughs]. I’m still talking to them every day,” Johnson said via TMZ (h/t Harrison Faigen of SB Nation).

Johnson, who told the media of his plans to leave before speaking with owner Jeanie Buss, added that he wouldn’t change his communication approach if he had to do it again.

“Everybody knows I love the Lakers, and so I’m gonna always help them. Like right now, I’m gonna still help them. I love my team, I love my franchise, and I love this city,” Johnson said. “You have to do things sometimes on your own terms. It doesn’t matter what other people think, see? And I’m that guy.”

The best point guard of all time reiterated that his relationship with Buss remains solid.

“I love Jeanie,” Johnson said. “I’ve been talking to her almost every day. I’m trying to help. Listen, I may not be in there physically, but I’m still there.”

Johnson squashed any notion that friction with LeBron James was the reason he stepped down. He told TMZ that LBJ was going to lead the Lakers to a championship.

“LeBron is going to lead us to a championship, so we’re excited about what he’s going to do, and we’re also excited that he signed,” Johnson said. “It’s all good with me and LeBron, and [Maverick Carter] and Rich Paul. So now all we need is keep going down the same path, get another superstar this summer and we’ll be fine.”

There were rumblings that Johnson would continue to help the Lakers shortly after his impromptu resignation. Last summer, he played a key role in Los Angeles landing James, one of the flashiest free agent additions in team history. Theoretically, he’s in position to help the franchise land another piece this summer without the threat of tampering.

Stein’s Latest: Lakers, Sixers, Myers

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka appears to be gaining more power inside of the team’s front office, Marc Stein of the New York Times writes in his weekly newsletter. The former agent is reportedly running Los Angeles’ search for a new head coach.

It’s curious that the team is searching for a coach before settling on an official head of basketball operations. Many organizations set up their front office structures prior to hiring a coach.

Stein provides more on the situation and passes along some additional nuggets in this week’s edition of the newsletter. Here are the highlights from his piece:

  • There’s chatter within league circles that Sixers assistant coach Monty Williams’ candidacy for the Lakers‘ gig is as strong in part because some within the front office fear giving the job to Tyronn Lue would hand too much control to LeBron James. Williams met with Pelinka to discuss the position earlier today. Lue and Juwan Howard are among the other candidates rumored to be in contention for the position.
  • The Sixers attempted to pry Warriors team president Bob Myers away from Golden State last offseason before deciding to promote Elton Brand to the role, Stein reports. Philadelphia also attempted to bring Rockets GM Daryl Morey to its front office.
  • Morey’s recent contract extension from the Rockets is estimated to pay the executive in the neighborhood of $8MM annually, Stein hears. Magic Johnson‘s salary as the Lakers’ team president was estimated to be $10MM per year and Stein argues that Los Angeles could feasibly offer a candidate double that salary if they wanted to lure a prized rival executive.
  • Stein writes that there is both “shock and relief” within the league that the Lakers haven’t attempted to poach a decorated rival executive, such as Myers, Spurs GM R.C. Buford, or Thunder GM Sam Presti.

Lonzo Ball Passed On Ankle Surgery After Lakers’ Threat

Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball nearly underwent an unauthorized procedure on his left ankle procedure before the organization threatened to void his rookie contract, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports.

The drama occurred in late February with Ball travelling to Ohio to undergo the surgery before the Lakers’ brass talked him out of it. Owner Jeanie Buss sent a plane to Ohio to pick up Ball and bring him back to Los Angeles, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times tweets.

The surgery was planned by Ball’s estranged former business partner Alan Foster and with knowledge of his outspoken father, LaVar Ball, Charania continues. The Ball family was familiar with the Ohio surgeon since the doctor had previously operated on Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo Ball.

Lonzo Ball notified GM Rob Pelinka about his plans and at that point the organization told him they could void his contract if he underwent the procedure, Charania adds.

Pelinka and team president Magic Johnson, who stepped down this week, worked in tandem with Ball’s now former agent Harrison Gaines to change his mind about the surgical procedure.

Ball suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain on January 19 and missed the remainder of the season. Once Ball returned to Los Angeles, Johnson and Pelinka spent time with him at doctor appointments to make sure he followed the team’s rehab plan, according to Charania.

Ball is suing Foster, the former co-founder and manager of Big Baller Brand, for damages of more than $2MM. The suit alleges that Foster embezzled millions of dollars from the company for his personal use. He also parted ways with Gaines this month and hired Creative Artists Agency to represent him.

Lakers Notes: Pelinka, Walton, Nunez, Magic

The Lakers reportedly plan to retain general manager Rob Pelinka following Magic Johnson‘s shocking resignation, but the consensus from general managers and agents around the NBA is that Pelinka is part of the problem in L.A., according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Pelinka, who didn’t make a ton of friends around the league during his days an agent representing Kobe Bryant and others, received plenty of criticism from the sources who spoke to Turner.

“I just don’t see how they do anything going forward with Rob in place,” one agent said. “No one trusts him.”

“Honestly, they need to hire an experienced general manager with credibility and let him fire Rob,” another agent said. “Let that president that come in, let him have the authority to hire his staff and to hire their head coach if he doesn’t want Luke Walton.”

Agents who may have had an adversarial relationship with Pelinka during his own days as an agent might be a little biased about his performance as a front office executive. But even rival GMs didn’t have a ton of praise for the Lakers’ GM, as Turner details. One general manager told Turner that front office people don’t have a good relationship with Pelinka from his days representing Kobe and other high-profile players.

“To tell you the truth, they should go out and get a top executive in the league to run everything,” one GM said. “That’s what they need to do. Go get a guy that can get this done. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t get done. Go get an executive that’s done it or who has built something.

“Go get Bob Myers (Warriors) if you can. Go after Sam Presti (Thunder). Those guys know how to build a team. If they have the tools that the Lakers have — cap space and a big city, appeal, you got LeBron James on your roster — you got to be able to attract one of these guys to work in their front office.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Three NBA head coaches have been let go today, but Luke Walton wasn’t one of them. According to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times, a coaching change doesn’t appear to be imminent for the Lakers, though people familiar with the club’s thinking believe Walton may be asked to make some changes to his coaching staff if he returns.
  • During their end-of-season conversations with reporters, a handful of Lakers spoke candidly about the impact that Anthony Davis trade rumors had on the team prior to the deadline, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com relays. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said that “everybody kind of lost themselves” around the deadline, while Josh Hart said social media – and the constant rumors swirling around the team – “made it annoying.”
  • According to McMenamin (via Twitter), the Lakers fired head athletic training Marco Nunez on Wednesday after a season in which nearly all of the Lakers’ top players missed time due to injuries.
  • Of all the reasons Magic Johnson had to step down as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, money wasn’t one of them — according to Sam Amick of The Athletic (via RealGM.com), Johnson was earning approximately $10MM per year in the role.

Magic Johnson Fallout: News, Rumors, Reactions, More

In the wake of Magic Johnson‘s abrupt resignation on Tuesday night, the Lakers issued a statement thanking him for his work with the franchise over the past two years.

“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…

General news/rumors:

  • 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.

Reactions:

  • 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.”

Next steps:

  • 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.

Magic Johnson Steps Down As Lakers’ President Of Basketball Ops

Holding an impromptu press conference on Tuesday evening, Magic Johnson announced that he has stepped down as the Lakers‘ president of basketball operations (Twitter link via Bill Oram of The Athletic).

According to Johnson, he hadn’t informed Lakers owner Jeanie Buss of his decision before publicly announcing his decision. Referring to Buss as a sister, Johnson said he “had more fun” when he was able to be “the big brother and the ambassador” rather than the Lakers’ ultimate decision-maker (Twitter link via Oram).

“Somebody’s going to have to tell my boss because I knew I couldn’t be face-to-face and tell her,” Johnson said, per Oram. “… I couldn’t stand to tell her.” 

The shocking announcement comes on the heels of a report from Oram which suggested that Johnson has been viewed as an “absentee executive.” According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Johnson never fully committed to the job and had limited office hours during his tenure. He was traveling and away from the team frequently, and didn’t do much scouting, per Woj.

Speaking to reporters tonight, Johnson said that his position with the Lakers hasn’t allowed him to be a statesman for the NBA, a role he enjoys and one he’s looking forward to resuming (Twitter link via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com).

Johnson also expressed frustration with the NBA’s tampering rules and repeatedly said that he was happier before being hired by the assuming the role of Lakers head of basketball operations, adding that it’s a “monkey off [his] back” to step away from the position (Twitter links via Oram and Brad Turner of The L.A. Times).

“I’m a free bird and I’ve been handcuffed, and I don’t enjoy that,” Johnson said (Twitter link via Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet). Magic did add that he’d be interested in consulting for the Lakers on an as-needed basis.

Johnson’s surprise resignation raises many more questions about the Lakers’ upcoming offseason. There was a widespread belief that head coach Luke Walton would be let go at season’s end, and while Johnson said tonight that his decision wasn’t about Walton, he also acknowledged that it made him uncomfortable to be in a position to be in a position between Buss and Walton, who are close (Twitter link via Oram).

“[Buss] told me yesterday you have the power [to make the decision on Walton],” Johnson said tonight, according to Oram (Twitter link). “… I didn’t want to put her or myself in that situation.”

With Johnson no longer around to make that decision, it’s not clear if Walton is now in position to keep his job or if Magic’s replacement would still want to bring in his own head coach. The Lakers’ coaching staff had believed for months that they’d be fired at the end of the season, Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter).

The Lakers are also facing a big summer in terms of roster decisions, with the team having targeted the 2019 offseason as the time to add a second star to complement LeBron James. Rob Pelinka remains in the role of GM for now, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be running the show during the coming months, or if the Lakers will look to hire a new decision-maker.

Asked for his opinion tonight on whether Pelinka and Walton should keep their jobs, Johnson declined comment, saying that’s a decision for Buss to make (Twitter link via McMenamin).

During his two-plus years as the Lakers’ president of basketball ops, Johnson made a handful of strong moves, including drafting players like Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Thomas Bryant — and, of course, signing LeBron. However, the team also made several questionable roster decisions, moving Lou Williams, D’Angelo Russell, and Ivica Zubac in a series of trades, and parting ways with players like Julius Randle, Brook Lopez, and Bryant.

Widely expected to be a playoff team in 2018/19, the Lakers failed to meet expectations and will finish well below .500, 10th in the Western Conference. While injuries were a factor, many of the club’s 2018 free agent additions – including Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson – weren’t ideal fits, and the midseason Anthony Davis saga had a noticeable effect on the young players involved in trade rumors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.