Johnson's First Move as Lakers President was Magic
All signs point towards Magic improving as an NBA executive. Magic Johnson, Lakers legend, five-time champion, and newly promoted President of Lakers Basketball Operations, made a move within the first 24 hours of assuming the role. His first move, though ill-conceived, will likely have a long-term positive effect. But Jeanie Buss did not make dramatic moves in order to adopt a 76ers esque “Trust the process” philosophy – the Lakers need to win, and win now! – is the message Lakers fans gleaned from the recent front office restructuring.
The Lakers continued failure motivated the recent front office shakeup. Something had to be done. The Los Angeles Lakers are a premier NBA franchise. For era after era, the Lakers brand has been synonymous with winning. In the 50s George Mikan ruled the hardwood. From the 60s to the 70s Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West’s wizardry brought home championships. Magic and Kareem owned the 80s leading Show Time to five championships. And Kobe Bryant carried a group of NBA misfits to five championships in the 2000s.
Glory days aside, this current streak of non-playoff participation is not only demoralizing it’s un-Laker like.
Magic’s hire was meant to serve multiple functions.
• Magic was elevated to be a modern liaison to connect the Lakers with the league’s top free agent talent.
• Magic’s expertise as a former player (and 5-time champion) was meant to assist with smart everyday basketball decision-making.
• Lastly, Magic is expected to pitch the city and the franchise as attractive destinations. A position he is best suited, considering he already owns a successful MLB team in the same city.
Every function of Magic’s job increases with difficulty as his performance as an executive falters.
His first major test as President could not have concluded worse than it did. Magic traded the Lakers sixth man Lou Williams for talent deficient Houston Rockets reserve Corey Brewer. Among players playing at least 10 minutes per game, Lou Williams was the Lakers HIGHEST, most efficient scorer. While Corey Brewer represents the Rockets’ LOWEST scorer. Besides Julius Randle, only the Lakers point guard (Russel) averages more assists per game than Williams. Losing your top scorer and best passer are not recipes for success.
Both Williams and Brewer are 30 years of age. If the Williams-Brewer trade was an effort to improve current fortunes, Lakers fans would have reason for concern. But the trade occurred with building for the future as Magic’s top priority – hopefully. If future team aspirations were not at the forefront of his decision, then it was a failure of epic proportions.
With less than 30 games remaining in the Lakers regular season, it is evident that their playoffs hopes have once again been upended. Armed with this reality, Magic strategically traded his best non-starter (Williams) while he still possessed lots of trade value for a contender, thanks to his early and mid season productivity.
For the remainder of this season Lakers fans will learn to grow accustomed to Lou Williams not being present to bailout their young, highly talented squad after mistakes cost them opportunities to win winnable games. But Lakers fans should have solace knowing they earned an additional draft pick, and it only cost them an aging 6th man.