Lakers! Magic Johnson has a history of paying little attention to who gets mad at him

Magic Johnson sits with Luke Walton at an NBA Summer League game earlier this year.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Hi this is Tania Ganguli, Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, here with your weekly newsletter. We’re going to be coming to you more regularly now that the season is a few weeks old.

It feels like longer.

Already so much has happened.

Yesterday I was watching a project called Kneading Dough by Uninterrupted, the digital media platform LeBron co-founded with his business partner Maverick Carter. In it, Carter interviewed Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and they discussed Johnson’s relationship with late Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Johnson begins the tale of their close relationship by noting the relationship upset his teammates.


“It was an unwritten rule at the time, you don’t befriend the owner,” Johnson said.

It’s well recorded that Johnson and Buss became very close. Their friendship had a great impact on the Lakers’ past and present. Back then Johnson didn’t mind if his actions upset people and he still doesn’t.

That was the message Johnson presented last week when he spoke to me and my colleagues, Broderick Turner and Bill Plaschke, about a contentious meeting he had with Lakers coach Luke Walton. The meeting startled many people in the organization, given its angry and combative nature, but ultimately the only thing Johnson said he regretted was that it became public.

“I’m going to do my job,” Johnson said.


Of course, that mentality works best when coupled with success. Johnson was wildly successful as a player, but his legacy as an executive is still unclear.

We have a lot to catch up on from the first three weeks of the season, so we’ll get right to it.

One housekeeping note before we get started. The LA Times sports department has a new podcast. We are four episodes in and the first one includes a portion of my one-on-one interview with LeBron James. We talked about his love of the mob and how he relates to young players. The podcast covers all L.A. sports, but will get more Lakers heavy as the season progresses. Listen to it here.

Since last we spoke…

--The first major drama of the season broke when ESPN reported that Johnson and Walton had a meeting in which Johnson berated Walton for the way the Lakers were playing. We did some digging about what exactly happened and why. We learned that Luke Walton’s job was not in jeopardy, something Johnson reiterated when Turner, Plaschke and I spoke with him. I found it noteworthy, too, that this bit of drama had nothing to with LeBron James.

--We ran a special section for the start of NBA season and James was on the cover with the headline “This is really happening.” For my story in that section, I sat down with him and took a look at how he would relate to his young teammates. His sons’ tastes align pretty well with what some of his teammates like. The funny thing? They actually align with James’ tastes in lot of ways, too.

--Not long ago, JaVale McGee thought his career might be over. Playing for the Warriors changed that. Until the Lakers signed Tyson Chandler, they found themselves relying heavily on McGee.

--James’ first triple double as a Laker (and 74th in his career) came in front of none other than Kobe Bryant. I caught Bryant at the Lakers loading dock, just before he hopped on his helicopter back to Orange County to see what he thought. He loved it.


--Rajon Rondo was the Lakers’ starter for the first two games of the season. Then he and Brandon Ingram got into a fight with Rockets guard Chris Paul. A real fight! There was a whole controversy about whether or not Rondo spit on Paul and the NBA sided with Paul in that matter, hitting him with the lightest suspension of the three. Eventually, Rondo defended himself against that decision.

--The Lakers won a game in Portland! That deserves an exclamation point because it was the first time since March of 2014 the Lakers won in Portland. It also snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Trail Blazers.

--Tyson Chandler got a buyout from the Suns and signed with the Lakers. This kind of transaction happens later in the year usually, but the Lakers had a big need (no pun intended). And Chandler gave them exactly what they wanted in his firsts game as a Laker last night.

--For the last five games, the Lakers have used a starting lineup that includes Ingram at shooting guard, James at small forward and Kyle Kuzma at power forward. Here’s what they like about it.

That’s all for now. Thanks for subscribing to this newsletter, and be sure to give our podcast a shot. I’ll be back next week. Subscribe here, and I’ll come right to your inbox. Something else you’d like to see? Email me. Or follow me on Twitter @taniaganguli.