Lakers Must Ace Critical Opportunity!
Magic’s resignation has given Jeanie Buss a second chance to fix the front office and coaching dysfunction besieging the Lakers
Magic Johnson’s surprise resignation as President of Basketball Operations could be the best thing that happened to the Lakers or the worst depending on how owner Jeanie Buss handles the challenges confronting the franchise.
Right now, it’s way too early to tell what’s going to happen. Per the statement released by the Lakers today, “we will work in a measured and methodical fashion to make the right moves for the future of our organization.” How that impacts the immediate futures of general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Luke Walton is unknown at this time. But if the Lakers decide to hire a new President of Basketball Operations, it’s likely that both could be gone.
Regardless of what you thought about how Magic Johnson handled the announcement of his decision, there’s little doubt that it opened the door for Jeanie Buss to have a second chance to fix the dysfunction that has plagued the Lakers since Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka were hired two years ago. Other than the signing of LeBron James last summer, little has gone right for the Lakers since Johnson and Pelinka took over the reigns of the franchise.
To be honest, the Lakers as an organization have been a mess ever since Jerry Buss passed away. The Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak era was a disaster that left the Lakers handicapped with a losing team and a load of bad contracts. After seizing control of the Lakers from her brother, Jeanie Buss turned to close friend and Lakers’ legend Magic Johnson and longtime Kobe Bryant agent Rob Pelinka in hopes they could restore the franchise to its glory days.
While Johnson and Pelinka did a good job drafting young talent and cleaning up bad contracts to create cap space to sign LeBron plus a second superstar this summer, their poor personnel decisions and key injuries doomed the Lakers to once again miss making the playoffs, for their sixth year in a row. Even more troubling though was the sense of dysfunction that permeated the entire franchise and made elite free agents hesitant to sign with the Lakers.
What Jeanie Buss decides to do could change that perception or confirm it. I’m hoping she will decide this time to spread a wide net and look outside the Lakers family to find the best possible experienced, respected professional executive to replace Magic Johnson. That person should be hired as both the president of basketball operations and also as general manager replacing Rob Pelinka, whom should either resign or be terminated as general manager.
Frankly, most successful NBA teams combine the president of basketball operations and general manager positions. That’s the case for Bob Myers of the Warriors, Danny Ainge of the Celtics, and Daryl Morey of the Rockets. The Lakers would be wise to follow the same template and hire a proven general manager and empower him to do the job. Having a separate president of basketball operations only complicates the decision making process.
The Lakers’ president of basketball operations and general manager position should be one of the most attractive in the league. Former Cavs general manager David Griffin, who should surely be near the top of the list as a candidate, believes there are many current NBA GM’s who would jump at the opportunity to be the Lakers’ PBO and general manager. Jeanie should also not be timid about approaching proven winners like the Raptors Masai Ujiri.
My major problem with Rob Pelinka staying as the Lakers’ general manager is his lack of experience as a GM and his lack of established relationships with other teams’ general managers. Retaining Pelinka as PBO and GM would be a massive mistake that would only exacerbate the franchise’s dysfunction and deteriorating reputation with teams and players throughout the league. It’d be a blow that would doom the Lakers to another decade of mediocrity.
While I have been an ardent supporter of Luke Walton as Lakers head coach, the decision whether to keep him should be left to the new general manger. There are good reasons why Luke should be retained and why he should go. In the end, the Lakers must have a head coach who’s in sync with whomever they hire as president of basketball operations and general manager. The last thing you want is a new PGO/GM inheriting a head coach not of his choosing.
Jeanie Buss has a unique opportunity for a mulligan to correct the mistake she made when she hired Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. She needs to ace this critical opportunity if the Lakers are to right their ship going forwad.