According to Chris Tomasson of NBA FanHouse, former New Jersey Nets head coach Lawrence Frank has a “good chance” of replacing Tom Thibodeau as Doc Rivers’ top assistant in Boston. Thibodeau turned Boston’s defense into one of the best in the league during his three years as an assistant, and was named the new head coach of the Chicago Bulls earlier this off-season.
The question has been for weeks not if but when. Ever since Magic Johnson was brought on as a “consultant to ownership” for Jeanie Buss and the Lakers the writing was on the wall, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak were going to be out. Magic’s heavy-handed public campaign to take over Jim’s spot added to the obviousness of the situation.
Nobody expected to be this fast — and certainly not two days before the trade deadline.
Why now? Lakers owner and team governor Jeanie Buss and Magic — the new head of Lakers’ basketball operations — were on the Lakers’ cable network Spectrum Sportsnet in Los Angeles and answered those questions.
“It’s something I thought about for a long time, and once the decision became clear in my mind there was really no reason to wait, Buss said…
“In today’s NBA there is no offseason, you’re constantly preparing for the draft, for the season, for Summer League, so there was no time like the present.”
This was very different from most teams firing a GM and basketball president — Jim Buss is Jeanie’s brother (and will remain part owner), Mitch Kupchak has been a loyal Laker front office soldier for decades. For Jeanie Buss, this was emotional and was not just business.
“This was a very difficult decision,” Buss said. “It was probably so hard for me to make that I probably waited too long. And for that, I apologize to Lakers fans. But now with clarity and direction, and talking to with Ervin, really knowing a change was needed, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Why did she wait so long, through what she called an “erosion” of what the Lakers should be?
“I wanted for the current (she meant former) front office to show us what Laker basketball was going to be. It just wasn’t going in a direction that was satisfactory for what this organization stands for,” Buss said.
Magic added perspective.
“It really wasn’t about the last couple weeks, it’s been about years,” Magic said.
However, Johnson did say in a later Los Angeles radio interview that he was kept out of the loop on the Lakers’ pursuit of DeMarcus Cousins All-Star weekend. He would not say if that impacted the timing, and he dodged the question about whether he would have included Brandon Ingram in the trade.
Johnson said he has talked to numerous other general managers already, both getting well wishes and talking trades — Los Angeles remains expected to move Lou Williams before the trade deadline, according to sources around the league.
“After we leave (the studio where this interview was taking place) we’re going to go back to the war room with coach Walton, Ryan West (an assistant GM), Jessie and Joey (Buss children working in the front office), we’re all going to sit in a room and evaluate trade possibilities,” Magic said.
Johnson continually praised both Luke Walton and the young core of the team — all of which were put in place by the former front office. He said he wanted to build with this core.
“We have the right coach with Luke Walton and a lot of great young players, that we can build and make sure we develop, and help them turn into the stars we think they can become,” Magic said.
“This isn’t about going back to Showtime, we’re not turning back the clock,” Buss said. “The Lakers have figured out how to win in every era, and certainly the game has evolved, and the rules have changed. We, in our discussions, were looking at evolving with the game and what the modern NBA is about.”
Magic said he wants a GM who can work with him and who also knows the CBA and has relationships with teams, “someone smarter than me.” He also talked about everyone in the organization working together in the front office, in a collaborative way.
“That’s how I built my (business) organization, that’s how I want to build this one,” Johnson said.
As expected, both Johnson and Buss said this was about winning and getting the organization going back in the right direction.
“When we sat down for dinner, and she asked me to come back, I think the timing was right,” Johnson said. “It was right for me to put my businesses aside and focus on Laker business, try to build an organization fans can be proud of, both on the court and in the offices.”
Give Knicks owner James Dolan this: He was so committed to winning, he spent an unheard of $60 million over five years to hire a lead basketball executive. This is how big-market teams should leverage their advantages, spending big on positions that don’t count toward the salary cap.
Dolan’s problem is that he hired Phil Jackson, who had no front-office experience.
If you’re going to offer the highest salary in the league, why not try to poach someone who’s already succeeding in the same role?
It seems the Lakers, who are looking for a general manager to work under new president Magic Johnson, understand that better,
Before the Lakers fired Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss on Tuesday, the franchise had already moved away from trying to pursue the Golden State Warriors’ Bob Myers, the franchise’s original top target for general manager, league sources told The Vertical.
After Myers signed a recent contract extension, it became clear to Lakers brass that it would be unable to lure Myers, league sources said.
Myers inherited Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but he drafted Draymond Green and lured Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala to Golden State. The 2015 Executive of the Year, Myers has cemented himself among the league’s best.
The Lakers had little shot of getting him, though. Myers already holds the president title so it would have been tough to see him leaving for a lesser role — especially in the midst of so much success. The Warriors also possess the financial wherewithal to hang with the Lakers in a bidding war.
But good for the Lakers for trying.
If not Myers himself, it seems Los Angeles likes the idea of an agent-turned-general. Kobe Bryant’s agent, Rob Pelinka, has emerged high on the list of candidates.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss wielded her power, installing Magic Johnson as President of Basketball Operations and ousting Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak from the front office.
Why did she drop the hammer today?
One source close to the situation said Kupchak and Jeanie Buss had not spoken since Nov. 1, despite her role as president of basketball operations and the power that gave her to fire Kupchak, and that her brother had resorted to communicating with his sister only through lawyers. The same source said Jeanie never was informed of a potential DeMarcus Cousins trade over the weekend and described a chaotic scene in which Jim Buss insisted low-level basketball officials “vote” on the proposed deal while Jeanie and Magic were left in the dark.
She also exacerbated these issues by hiring Johnson as an advisor and then watching him repeatedly spout off about being in charge. Think Jim Buss and Kupchak were eager to answer to and be evaluated by someone gunning for their jobs?
This doesn’t mean Jim Buss and Kupchak handled the situation well, but chaos breeds chaos. There’s plenty of blame to spread around for the Lakers’ predicament.
Jeanie Buss and Johnson should have a better working relationship. At least it won’t face the same pressures as the siblings’ partnership.
Maybe that’s just to get the number of Kobe’s agent, Rob Pelinka.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:
Marc Stein of ESPN:
Sam Amick of USA Today:
Pelinka is still an agent, and Arn Tellem is a former agent who now works for the Pistons. Agents are becoming trendier picks for front-office jobs since Warriors general manager Bob Myers blazed the trail.
If the Lakers are willing to spend big, Neil Olshey — who previously worked in Los Angeles with the Clippers — would be a good choice. A large salary could pull him from Portland.
Kevin Pritchard or Peter Dinwiddie could be fine if the Lakers aren’t willing to make a mega-offer good enough to lure a sitting general manager. Chris Grant might bring baggage.
As Johnson has acknowledged, he needs a general manager more savvy in the nuances of the salary cap. Any of these names would qualify. It’s about finding the very best person for the job, because Johnson needs all the help he can get.