He shouldn’t be the advisor. He should be the boss.
He has talked to USA Today about wanting to “call the shots.’’
He told ESPN he wanted to be the Lakers’ “one voice.’’
At first blush, this might seem to be the same old Magic rhetoric, but upon further inspection he’s not blushing, and neither are the Lakers.
Buckle up, folks. This is real. This is on. All indications are that unless something drastically changes, at season’s end Johnson will be formally placed in charge of the team’s basketball operations.
It turns out, the “advisor’’ title was apparently just an interim tag designed to reestablish Johnson as the face of the franchise until this spring, when he will be the centerpiece in Jeanie Buss’ attempt to rebuild the franchise in the manner it was first constructed by her legendary father.
Johnson would call the shots that are now called by Jim Buss. He would be the voice that is currently Mitch Kupchak’s. He would essentially fill the role, both spiritually and practically, that Jerry Buss once entrusted to Jerry West.
Once installed, Johnson would attempt to surround himself with a strong management team while using his star power to make the Lakers relevant again. He would hire a general manager to run the daily operations, bring in former players as occasional consultants and spend time counseling the young Lakers while acting as a salesman for potential free agents.
This would be one of the biggest organizational changes in Lakers history. But after the last two weeks, it should not be a big surprise.
Nobody from the Lakers will talk about Johnson’s job, and Johnson refused comment for this story through his spokesperson, but it’s pretty obvious what is happening.
Since giving his first off-the-cuff interview nearly a week ago, Johnson has been talking like a boss, and nobody from the organization has quieted him. From coast to coast, Johnson has been publicly making plans like a boss, even pleading for help from Kobe Bryant, and nobody from the organization has contradicted him.
When Johnson tells ESPN, “If Magic Johnson is in that seat, guys are gonna want to come play,’’ he knows he’s already firmly in that seat.
When Johnson tells CBS, “We know that it’s going to take some time. It’s going to take three to five years to get them back again rolling,’’ he is already teaming up with Jeanie Buss to draw up a blueprint.
Say what you want about the struggles of Buss and Kupchak, but it has been painful to watch them steamrollered by Johnson while they still have their jobs. In particular, Kupchak has been a loyal Laker for many years and deserves better than to be publicly flogged by a man who will eventually determine his fate. It would be nice if Johnson chills out a bit until his title becomes official.
When that happens, probably in the final days of the season, Lakers fans celebrating the departure of the Jim Buss regime will have a whole new set of worries.
While putting Johnson in charge would be a splashy move, it will also be a splashy gamble.
Magic Johnson is not Jerry West. While West was totally devoted, Johnson is easily distracted.
West would sit for two hours watching Lakers practices. Can one imagine the irrepressible Johnson sitting still for two minutes?
Remember when he was part of the Guggenheim group that purchased the Dodgers and claimed he would come to work there every day? A couple of years later, he doesn’t even have a Dodger Stadium office. Everybody loves Magic Johnson, but one minute he wants to buy an NFL team and the next he’s buying and selling a minor-league baseball team, and now that he wants to focus on the Lakers, how long will that last? In just the last couple of days, he has been seen throwing pies in the faces of ESPN personalities and playing beer pong with Jimmy Fallon while the Lakers were suffering a tough loss to the Sacramento Kings and getting their shorts handed to them against the Phoenix Suns.
“If I took it on, I would give 150%,” Johnson told ESPN of a job that he has already taken on.
Jeanie Buss is apparently willing to bet her legacy on that claim. This is not only the first big move of her stewardship but could also be the one that defines that stewardship.
Stay tuned. The Lakers drama is 150% just beginning.