It’s been a long time com-ing but better late than never. After years of being the league’s laughing stock, the once proud and mighty Lakers franchise has finally pressed the long awaited reset button. Owner and president Jeanie Buss fired long-time general manager Mitch Kupchak and her brother executive vice-president for basketball operations Jim Buss. Another victim of this reset is Lakers publicist John Black. Jeanie Buss put Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson in charge as president of basketball operations.
The Los Angeles Lakers have not reached the playoffs in the last three years and are coming off a franchise worst 17-65 regular season. This season, the Lakers are 19-39, the second worst team in the Western Conference. At this rate, the Lakers won’t make the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Over the same time frame, the Lakers have been unable to grab a star, being snubbed by several superstars who shunned the glitz and glamor of LA to win in other cities.
Despite his impeccable credentials – 3 championships as a player and another 5 titles as part of the head shed since 1981 – Kupchak also had several major blunders including giving four-year contracts worth $136 million to over-the-hill veterans Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. He was unable to sign Carmelo Anthony back in 2014 who re-signed with the lowly Knicks and couldn’t even get a meeting with Kevin Durant in the offseason last year. According to several reports, his latest blunder was his inability to let go of rookie Brandon Ingram for Sacramento’s All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.
Jim Buss, meanwhile, remains as part owner but will no longer have any power in the Lakers organization. I can recall Buss making his infamous promise in 2014 when he said that the Lakers will have a contender in 3 years.
Many have raised concerns about Magic’s relative inexperience since he has never been part of front office operations. However, the most important thing about Magic is that he is a winner. Aside from winning 5 championships as a player, he is also a successful team owner (Los Angeles Dodgers which he already sold and Los Angeles Sparks). He has also several business interests. He is also a part owner of the Lakers.
With Magic at the helm and his competitive nature, fans can expect a quick rebuilding punctuated by high-profile signings. He will definitely use his reputation and stardom to recruit top-tier talent for the Lakers.
Magic has a tough task ahead of him since turning around a team in the best basketball league in the world is easier said. Many great players and coaches have tried to do just that and have failed. The latest example would be Phil Jackson’s continued failure in turning the New York Knicks around. But it is Magic’s show now and if he can make the Lakers the Lakers again, this would perhaps be the greatest achievement in his life.