The model front offices of today’s NBA are collaborative efforts — bright and diverse teams of people that think of things in different ways and start a robust debate — but with one decision maker who has the hammer in the end. Think Bob Myers with the Warriors or Lawrence Frank with the Clippers.
Is that how the Lakers are run? There are a lot of voices in the room. Rob Pelinka as GM is supposed to be the guy on the top of the pecking order, but Kurt Rambis holds a lot of sway (as does his wife, Linda, through her close friendship with owner Jeanie Buss), CEO Tim Harris is known to have input, and if you don’t think agent Rich Paul — LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker and other clients past and present — doesn’t get heard you kid yourself. Then there are others down the ranks in the front office.
Add another voice: Buss told Bill Oram of The Athletic she still leans on Magic Johnson for advice, in an unofficial capacity.
“To me, he’s still working with us,” Buss said. “In terms of an official capacity, in the NBA, you have to be very clear as to who can negotiate on your behalf and who can’t. So he doesn’t have that official designation. But in terms of his support, his wisdom, his insight, I freely call on him as needed.”
Buss said she consulted him earlier this season as the wheels came off the “superteam” the Lakers were supposed to be with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James.
“I just sat down with him,” Buss told The Athletic, “and I said, ‘Should I be concerned? What are you seeing?’ And he just talked about, you know, the injuries and that the team hadn’t had a chance to be together. … So, you know, he’s very calm and insightful. And it, you know, I appreciate his seeing the big picture instead of reacting to every game.”
Jeanie Buss is the governor and primary owner of the team, and she can consult with whomever she wants. It’s her right, and the team has won a title under her leadership.
On the one hand, while his stint as an executive is not exactly illustrious (to put it kindly), there are worse people to consult than Magic. He does know the game.
However, Buss and the very insular Lakers — who like to keep things in-house and do things “the Lakers way” — might do well to consult with someone from outside the organization. A new voice, a different perspective. They need it. Notice what was said at the top about the Warriors and Clippers, they intentionally created a diverse group in the front office with differing perspectives to gain a broader insight into decisions. It never feels like that is what is going on with the Lakers.
It’s more than just having someone in the room willing to stand up and say, “is trading for Westbrook really a good fit?” It’s creating a culture where that kind of debate on every decision is part of the process, where things are considered from every angle. Is that’s what is happening with the Lakers?
Or is the “outsider” arguably the greatest player in franchise history?