Magic Johnson did a nice job setting up the Lakers to land a star free agent last summer. He even lured the biggest star free agent of all – LeBron James.
And then it all went downhill from there.
Johnson had terrible ideas of how to build a supporting cast around LeBron. The Lakers prioritized their notion of tough playmakers – Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley – over shooters. As if LeBron would truly be content playing off the ball. Of course, the player with the greatest combination of scoring and passing in NBA history wanted the ball in his hands. That left LeBron surrounded by ill-fitting, and just plain not-good-enough, teammates.
How did Johnson think this was a good plan?
Maybe by not working hard enough to come up with a better one.
Johnson is seen as an absentee executive
If Johnson isn’t putting in the work, that’d be a major problem for the Lakers. He wouldn’t be alone throughout the league, and the Lakers have other executives, including general manager Rob Pelinka. But Johnson is in charge of the front office. Running an NBA team’s basketball operations is a hard job that requires a lot of work to do well. It’s on him to move the Lakers forward – especially because he has so much job security.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has repeatedly stated her faith in Johnson. She also defended Phil Jackson after the Knicks firing him despite him being unprepared, out of touch, unavailable and low energy. Buss just might have too much patience for lackluster work ethics, especially by people she’s close with.
And no wonder Johnson’s comments after not trading for Anthony Davis went over so poorly within the Lakers. Executives who build strong connections with their players can get through those situations. It’s much more difficult when the team president isn’t around to establish a bond in the first place.
To be fair, the Lakers were right to pursue Davis. He’s a superstar. The opportunity to land him justified potential chemistry disruptions.
But that wasn’t the Lakers’ only discussed move that showcases the organization’s flaws.
on the weekend of Jan. 25, the Lakers had a tentative deal in place to acquire Bulls forward Jabari Parker in exchange for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Beasley, league sources told The Athletic.
Because he’s on a one-year contract and would have Early Bird Rights, Caldwell-Pope had the right to veto a trade. The Lakers also got into the mix for Davis, putting other deals on the backburner. So, the Parker trade never happened.
But it would have been awful for the Lakers. Parker would have been yet another player who doesn’t do enough without the ball.
At least the Lakers avoided that mistake.
To avoid the next one, they’ll probably need a front-office leader more focused on the job.