The minute Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss sat down and had lunch Magic Johnson — before Magic was hired as an advisor to ownership — the questions started to be asked: Does this mean a shakeup is coming to the Lakers’ front office? Will Jim Buss be pushed out? Mitch Kupchak? Will Magic ultimately be the guy at the top of the food chain in Lakers’ basketball operations?
There are no definitive answers to that yet, but I wouldn’t feel very comfortable if I were Jim Buss.
Magic told the USA Today he’d like to be the guy calling the shots.
“Working to call the shots, because it only works that way,’’ Johnson told USA TODAY Sports when asked what he hopes his role with the franchise will be. “Right now I’m advising. I get that. But at the end of the day, then we all got to come together and somebody’s got to say, ‘I’m making the final call,’ all right? And who’s that going to be?
“So, we’ll see what happens.”
Magic is currently on a crash course — he’s got to learn the ins and outs of the NBA’s complex salary cap structure and Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“The main part for me is really learning the other part that I didn’t know, and that is to understand the CBA, the salary cap, where we are in terms of the salary cap and who’s a free-agent-to-be. You’ve got a lot of young players so you’ve got to learn when are their contracts coming up, if you can give them the max deal, give them an extension, all those types of things you’ve got to learn. It’s a lot of things, but I’m excited. I’ve been working on all of those things, and then meeting with the staff.”
If Magic were given power, the Lakers would need to have a more experienced cap manager/NBA front office veteran just below him in the power structure. Someone Magic could work with but who could guide him through challenging times (the Lakers don’t want the kind of mistakes Vlade Divac was making early on in Sacramento).
There are two questions for me. First, will Magic be given the hammer on the basketball operations side? Call it a power grab if you want, but he has to be handed the power by the owners. Jeanie Buss can’t just fire Jim, that’s not the way the complex trust that governs the Lakers ownership and the six Buss children works. It would take a majority of the Buss family to move him (Jim likely would resign first, but not sell his shares, he can’t the way the trust is structured) — however there are plenty of reports that the other Buss children are ready to move on from the Jim Buss/Kupchak era (that’s not totally fair to Kupchak, but that’s also another discussion). It would not surprise anyone this summer to see Jim step aside and Magic be installed as a VP and Director of Basketball Operations (or some such title). However, that is not a certainty.
Second question: Is that a good thing? While there is an “anyone is better than Jim Buss” camp among Lakers fans, any follower of Magic’s incipit Twitter account can see cause for worry — he has pitched the same living-in-the-past ideas publicly that Jim Buss seemed to believe. That the Lakers can land free agents still just because they are the Lakers. Magic has said the Lakers should have gone after Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan and others of that ilk — guys that would not even meet with Los Angeles right now. Magic doesn’t change the equation, the Lakers advantages due to brand and location have been reduced by both the CBA and the world of social media. You can get just as big a shoe deal playing in Oklahoma City now if you’re a superstar. The Lakers need to follow more of the Boston model — build a good young core with a good young coach, get up above .500 and show promise, and then free agents will take you seriously. Boston didn’t land Al Horford until it won 48 games.
Can Magic do that?
Will he get the chance?
There’s going to be a lot of drama playing out in Los Angeles this summer.
Three things we learned Thursday: Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas put on shows
Maybe you were too busy to watch the NBA action on Thursday night because you were getting your hair cut by lighting it on fire. That happens. Here are the big takeaways from Thursday around the NBA.
1) Russell Westbrook with triple-double leads Thunder past Cavaliers. Now bring on Kevin Durant, Warriors. There were two key factors in this Oklahoma City upset of a Cavaliers team that had been playing well. The first is that this was the second night of a back-to-back and the third game in four nights for the Cavaliers, and it showed. In the first quarter you could see the sloppy play — particularly on the defensive end — from Cleveland, something that would return many times over in the fourth quarter. On offense, they didn’t have the legs we had seen even the night before in Indiana. The Cavaliers can call this a “schedule makers loss” and move on.
The other was Russell Westbrook.
Early in the game he drove to set up teammates — Westbrook had five first quarter assists — while Victor Oladipo had seven points in the frame and Steven Adams six. Also, just like in the first meeting Westbrook the trouble he had scoring inside against Cleveland and Tristan Thompson (3-of-9 shooting inside 8 feet in this game) so he found spots on the floor where he could get knock down looks — left elbow extended, free throw line, straight on threes. The end result was 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. That’s his 26th triple-double of the season, for those of you scoring at home.
Other Thunder players were making contributions as well. Victor Oladipo finished with 23 points, Steven Adams 20, Cameron Payne is back and had a nice 15 off the bench, and Andre Roberson did this to LeBron James.
For the Thunder, next up is Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Saturday night (OKC also catches Golden State on the second night of a back-to-back and third game in four nights).
One bright spot for the Cavaliers, Derrick Williams had 12 points in his debut for the team on a 10-day contract. The guy picked No. 2 right behind Kyrie Irving in the 2011 draft brings some skills to the table, he can drive and score in the paint, and he can knock down corner threes. However, he’s been inconsistent on offense and terrible on defense. There’s a reason the Heat waived him to make room for a D-League call-up. But he gets another chance on a Cavaliers team looking for playmakers, we’ll see if this is finally a fit for him.
2) Another dominant fourth quarter from Isaiah Thomas, another win for Boston. He is the best fourth quarter scorer in the NBA right now, and he did it again Thursday night. Isaiah Thomas was getting to the rim on his way to scoring 15 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter, leading Boston to a road win in a game where Portland led by 17 at one point in the first half. There may be no more dynamic player to watch in the league right now than Thomas.
Also making plays late was Marcus Smart — he had a key steal, poking the ball away from Al-Farouq Aminu, then he had an impressive put-back off an Al Horford miss when Boston needed it late.
Portland is eight games below .500 and is a game out of the playoffs in the West. How is a team with this much talent on the roster out of the playoffs?
3) Is he the clutch Sixer? T.J. McConnell with another game winner for Philly. The best news for Philadelphia fans out of the come-from-behind win in Orlando was that Dario Saric had 24 points — he is looking like a player, a guy who can be the stretch four next to Joel Embiid who makes the whole thing come together for this team.
But when the game was on the line, it was once again T.J. McConnell with the game winner, a little floater in the lane. He’s becoming Mr. Clutch for this team.
Phil Jackson takes to Twitter again, says his Carmelo Anthony tweet was “misunderstood”
As rumors flew around the league of Phil Jackson’s efforts to trade Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report wrote an article about how Phil was never able to turn Anthony’s ability to score into the kind of leader Jackson had with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The reported reason was Anthony’s lack of desire to do whatever it took to win. Jackson then took to Twitter and essentially defended himself but said of Anthony “I learned you don’t change the spot on a leopard with Michael Graham in my CBA daze.”
Apparently, we did not understand what he meant.
So after starting a 🔥storm with a misunderstood tweet, I offer this✌🏻our society is torn with discord. I'm against it. Let It Be
That really says nothing. About Anthony, about the Knicks, about anything.
It fits the pattern — when has Jackson spoken out during this downward spiral of a season in New York? Derrick Rose goes AWOL and he throws his coach Jeff Hornacek out there to answer questions. Jackson hasn’t addressed the Anthony situation other than on Twitter. Heck, he’s barely spoken to Anthony. He tried to calm down Charles Oakley to no avail (not that anyone was going to), but he’s staying out of the middle of that feud.
Jackson appears to want to be a guru, gently steering the Knicks’ ship and making profound pronouncements on high. That’s not what the Knicks need, they need someone to go Sully Sullenberger and take command of the situation. That said, he’s getting $12 million a year from the Knicks and if you think he’s just going to walk away from that cash to go back to Montana full time, you haven’t followed Jackson’s career.
LeBron James, Chris Paul, other NBA players back Charles Oakley in feud with Knicks
NBA players are going to always have each other’s back when it comes to feuds with management.
Make it a player some of the NBA’s older generation grew up admiring for how hard he played — Charles Oakley — and an organization where plenty of players around the league have issues with management, and you will get players coming down hard on one side of the scales.