Before Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson met with LeBron James, he studied the teams James had played on. He studied what they looked like — what worked and what didn’t work — and it gave him an idea of what kind of team would best serve James.
But as their partnership goes forward, they’ll work together to find the right teammates for James.
“Just like when I was playing, Dr. Buss and Jerry West would come to me when we were thinking about making moves,” Johnson said during a conference call Friday. “They’d say, ‘Hey, who do you think can help us that we can get?’ I’d always give out a couple names ... then Jerry West would make his decision with Dr. Buss. It’s gonna be the same way here.”
The Lakers added Rajon Rondo, a point guard who won a championship with the Boston Celtics 10 years ago; JaVale McGee, a center who has won back-to-back championships with the Warriors; and Lance Stephenson, a constant irritant to James over the years whose defensive intensity and ball-handling ability appealed to James and Johnson.
Johnson will continue to use James as a resource.
“We’re gonna go to LeBron and say … ‘What do you think about this guy?’ ” Johnson said. “‘You know him. You play against him. You know the back story and everything about the guy. You probably know a lot more than we know.’ That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s why you have guys that are superstars in this league. You want to have a line of communication and want to know what they’re thinking.”
Johnson said James has already done an “excellent job” of providing feedback on players.
“The ultimate decision maker on the team and who we bring in is me,” Johnson said. “I take that to Jeanie [Buss] and see what she says and whether she signs off or not.”
There is trust already that exists between the two of them, and that’s, in part, because of how much of himself each man saw in the other.
“It was so funny I think we both felt we were probably talking to ourselves,” Johnson said of their meeting. “We’re looking at each other and we were mirrors of each other when it comes to basketball mindset, championship DNA, playing the game the right way and also being a great teammate. That is what it was, just a lot of basketball conversation and as I told him, we want to get to the championship one day and he can be a big part of leading us back to that.”
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