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Magic Johnson, who was hired earlier this month as an adviser to Los Angeles Lakers president and co-owner Jeanie Buss as she evaluates the direction of the franchise, said Tuesday on ESPN's First Take that he would try to get Kobe Bryant to join him in the front office if his role evolves further.
"First call I make if I'm in charge? Kobe Bryant," Johnson said. "Because Kobe understands winning. He understands, also, these players. I would call, 'What role you want? ... If you've got a day, just give me that day.' "I'll take that. Whatever time he has, I want him to come and be a part of it."
With Magic Johnson holding an advisory role for the Lakers in the past week, however, he predicted that more growing pains await. “It’s going to take three to five years to get them back rolling again,” Johnson said in an interview on CBS This Morning that aired on Monday morning. “If we’re patient and we develop our own players, in today’s NBA it’s different than when I played. you have to develop your own players because free agent movement is not like it used to be. You have to make sure you hit a home run with the players you do draft and keep the players you have on your roster.”
Magic Johnson will meet with Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and co-owner and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss on Monday to discuss the construction of the current team and the team's strategy heading into the Feb. 23 trade deadline. "Everybody has to be on the same page right now," Johnson told ESPN. "What we should be concerned about is not just right now, but how it will affect the future of the Lakers. That's why we all have to be on the same page."
"Last week someone asked me if I wanted to call the shots. I'd told them my role was as an adviser. Then he said, 'Do you want to call the shots?' And I said, 'I would love to call the shots.' But I know that I'm an adviser. Jim is the one calling the shots. I'm just an adviser. But I want to make sure that I have some type of input, and then he can decide how he wants to use that input," Johnson said. "When I say calling the shots, it's more, 'Somebody has to be the final decision-maker.' I would love that to be me. Everybody has their input, and then somebody has to make the final call. Once we gather all the facts, I'd love to be the person making the final call."
Mark Medina: Now, what's interesting with Magic Johnson, it didn't sound like Jim Buss really knew he was coming. You don't really have to read between the lines when Magic was saying 'hey, I got lunch with Jeanie Buss, I got lunch with some of the other siblings, with Joey Buss, who oversees the D-Fenders, with Jesse Buss, who is part of the front office. Oh, and I had a great phone call with Jim Buss'. What does that tell you?. No face-to-face or interaction with Jim, but with everyone else of course.
Tim Kawakami: I think Jerry (West) is always interested in things in L.A., obviously because he's such a great part of the franchise. I don't think that Magic coming in heavy increases, and I would imagine it decreases, the likelihood of the Lakers being ready to make Jerry an offer for him to come back.
Tim Kawakami: At this point I think that Jerry is going to be back beyond this season. Maybe it's going to be a year-by-year thing from here on. Maybe it will be a slighty different role. He's 78. He had to go to the hospital recently. But I don't think the Lakers for Jerry right now is the odds-on at all, just because the Magic Johnson thing it's a different set-up.
Magic Johnson said he wants to "call the shots'' for the Los Angeles Lakers, a week after it was announced he has rejoined the team as an adviser to owner Jeanie Buss. "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, ëI'm making the final call,' all right? And who's that going to be? "So, we'll see what happens.''
Magic told Jim he was there to help, that he stood by his criticisms from the past but hoped they could move forward without that baggage. The answer and Johnson's tone disarmed Buss. It was as close to a détente as the two men, both 57 years old, had reached in years. Buss agreed and asked to schedule a meeting after the All-Star break where he and general manager Mitch Kupchak could explain their decision-making over the past few seasons. "I'm taking Magic at face value, that he's here to help," Jim Buss told ESPN. "He's one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Who wouldn't value his opinion? I'm excited to work with Magic for years to come."
When Magic is expected to play a part in the Lakers' decision-making process. But he's not the general manager. He's at the senior level, hired to advise, not to get down in the weeds plotting out maneuvers. The expectation, according to sources close to the situation, is that he will stay at that level beyond this season. In the short term, he'll be a voice alongside Kupchak and Buss. But in the coming months, he's expected to help Jeanie Buss decide whether to revamp the basketball operations leadership team.
Although said to be personally fond of Kupchak, who joined the Lakers' front office in 1986, about halfway through Magic's playing career, he's also determined to make an honest evaluation of the general manager's performance and abilities in today's NBA. According to sources close to the situation, Magic has already heard from agents and executives from other teams that Kupchak's deliberate style can be frustrating to deal with and has probably cost the Lakers in free agency in recent years, missing out on a list of names that includes Isaiah Thomas, Kent Bazemore, Kyle Lowry, Ed Davis, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Eric Gordon.
That speaks to Kupchak's integrity, as contact with an agent or player is considered tampering before the opening of free agency, but it also speaks, according to sources, to a lack of savvy. There are ways of gathering information on free agents without trampling the rules, so that a team doesn't begin the process far behind everyone else.
Buss agreed and asked to schedule a meeting after the All-Star break where he and general manager Mitch Kupchak could explain their decision-making over the past few seasons. "I'm taking Magic at face value, that he's here to help," Jim Buss told ESPN. "He's one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Who wouldn't value his opinion? I'm excited to work with Magic for years to come."
It starts here as the Feb. 23 trade deadline approaches, when Magic is expected to play a part in the Lakers' decision-making process. But he's not the general manager. He's at the senior level, hired to advise, not to get down in the weeds plotting out maneuvers. The expectation, according to sources close to the situation, is that he will stay at that level beyond this season. In the short term, he'll be a voice alongside Kupchak and Buss. But in the coming months, he's expected to help Jeanie Buss decide whether to revamp the basketball operations leadership team.
According to sources close to the situation, Magic has already heard from agents and executives from other teams that Kupchak's deliberate style can be frustrating to deal with and has probably cost the Lakers in free agency in recent years, missing out on a list of names that includes Isaiah Thomas, Kent Bazemore, Kyle Lowry, Ed Davis, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Eric Gordon.
That speaks to Kupchak's integrity, as contact with an agent or player is considered tampering before the opening of free agency, but it also speaks, according to sources, to a lack of savvy. There are ways of gathering information on free agents without trampling the rules, so that a team doesn't begin the process far behind everyone else.
As the lead on business affairs, Jeanie Buss does largely stay away from the on-court product. She has said publicly that she often learns of the team's basketball decisions via news reports or texts from her brother. Sources said Kupchak rarely, if ever, communicates with Jeanie Buss, believing he reports only to her brother. That funnel effect has essentially given Kupchak incredible power over decision-making, with only one boss to hold him accountable for successes and failures.
Anyone around the NBA interested in filling that basketball operations post should start polishing the resume, even though Johnson has been close with Kupchak for a long time. Johnson is said to have an open mind about dismissing Kupchak to usher in a new era, according to sources.
Mike Bresnahan: Magic said he also planned to meet with Jim Buss soon. Extended part of Magic interview with @SpectrumSN to air at 6:30 on post-game show.
The Los Angeles Lakers today announced that Earvin "Magic" Johnson will return to the Lakers to assist Jeanie Buss in all areas of basketball and business as an advisor. "We are thrilled and honored to add Magic's expertise and abilities, and I look forward to working alongside him." said Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss.
"Magic Johnson is one of the NBA's greatest players and it is terrific to see him returning to the Lakers," said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. "He is a truly special person and a natural leader with a relentless passion for basketball and profound knowledge of the game." "Everyone knows my love for the Lakers," said Johnson. "Over the years, I have considered other management opportunities, however my devotion to the game and Los Angeles make the Lakers my first and only choice. I will do everything in my power to help return the Lakers to their rightful place among the elite teams of the NBA."
ESPN.com reported a dinner between Jeanie Buss, her longtime close friend Linda Rambis (now a team executive and the wife of former Lakers’ coach and player Kurt Rambis), and Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson at the team’s game at Staples Center last Tuesday with the Denver Nuggets. Maybe it was just dinner. But everything is magnified now. “I think she is still gathering information,” one friend of Jeanie Buss texted Sunday night.
Los Angeles can still easily pursue a max free agent next summer, even with the new contracts on the books, but Mozgov hasn’t been an interior force on offense, and Deng doesn’t look like the Deng of old on defense. In the NBA’s new TV-contract soaked world, the deals aren’t indefensible; But they haven’t been very impactful, either, and that’s something Jeanie Buss is considering as she contemplates her brother’s future. “She’s hearing from enough people that those two signings were not strong enough signings,” said one person who’s spoken with her recently.
Jeanie Buss is sharp and patient, and GM Mitch Kupchak remains well-regarded around the league. Walton, beloved in L.A., put a strong, teaching staff together, and will get every chance to succeed. But how long will it take for the Lakers to be the Lakers again?
On the eleventh year of his exemplary 81-point performance in a single game against the Toronto Raptors, the five-time NBA champion shared his willingness to offer guidance if asked by the Lakers management—particularly the Buss family—whom he was worked closely with during the course of his career. “I’m always around behind the scenes for Jeanie, Jimmy, and the entire Buss family if they need assistance or if it be to reach out or call for advice and things of that nature,” Bryant told sportscaster Stephen A. Smith on ESPN radio, as relayed by the LakersNation website.
Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss met with Hall of Famer and former Lakers point guard Magic Johnson on Tuesday night, sources with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN. The exact nature of the meeting was not immediately clear, but sources said Buss has been soliciting opinions on the direction the franchise should take moving forward, after three straight losing seasons and possibly a fourth, with the Lakers already having lost 31 games this season.
Buss is the business whiz behind the branding and sponsorships of the Lakers, the keeper of the glamour franchise she and her five siblings inherited when their father, Jerry Buss, died in February 2013. Her fingerprints are on the reported $3 billion television deal with Spectrum SportsNet and the 120,000-square foot practice facility the team will move into next season. She is admired by executives throughout sports and entertainment. “Everything you look for in a CEO, she has,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said.
Does the promise shown by Coach Luke Walton and the Lakers’ young core absolve Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak for three years of losing, the sort of streak Jeanie Buss says her father “just wouldn’t have tolerated”? For those three years, Jeanie Buss has honored her brother’s timeline. “That’s what he said, so I have to give him his time,” she said. “I have to.” It’s a pledge that might prove to be Jim Buss’ undoing. Reached by the Southern California News Group last week, he said he “wasn’t referring to a certain playoff position” and that the deadline “really wasn’t as clear as people say it is.” “This was quotes from three or four years ago,” he said. “Those were what the path was supposed to be.”
Jim Buss said injuries and the Kobe Bryant farewell tour derailed what her were otherwise reasonable expectations. He now believes in a different measuring stick. “If I feel that the strides have been made,” Jim Buss said, “and the team is going in a very positive – not just a positive direction – a very positive direction, I don’t see a switch happening.” The two most prominent Buss siblings agree that the season needs to play out before any decisions can be reached. “We’re like every other team that we will play a season and we will assess that season when it’s over,” Jeanie Buss said. “No reason to speculate on any possible changes. It’s a waste of time to speculate.”
Buss is the figurehead of a family enterprise. She leans heavily on those she trusts, but ultimately, she is the boss. One way or another, her fingerprints will soon be all over the team that takes the court at Staples Center. “I think she understands that she has to make decisions that are important for the future of the franchise, for the growth of the franchise,” said Jerry West, who ran the Lakers front office alongside Kupchak until the summer of 2000 and is currently an executive board member with the Golden State Warriors. “She knows she has to do that. And I don’t think she’d be afraid to do that.”
While some owners hide out in suites, or are escorted to their seats by a ring of beefy security dudes, Buss is among the people, honoring requests for selfies, just another fan who loves the home team. “She’s not wearing a big crown that says, ‘I’m the owner of the Lakers,’” said Tim Harris, the Lakers chief operating officer. “She’s sitting there saying, ‘You want to come up and talk to me? I’m sitting here, season ticket holder in Section 117.’”
Buss projects an image of comfort, speaking a language that is easily understood. She is someone you feel you would trust with something you love. “She is very, very kind and very, very nice,” said Shell, who was an executive at Fox when the broadcasting giant held the Lakers television rights, “but she can be tough in business. In the business world, if you try to take advantage of that kindness, you’ll see a tough side to Jeanie that she also has.”
Walton has visited Buss’ office at least a dozen times, she said, a dramatic shift from the distance kept by Byron Scott and Mike D’Antoni. The strain was palpable after the Lakers made the surprising, 11th-hour hire of D’Antoni in 2012 when Jackson was anticipating an offer. “I have the ultimate faith in Luke Walton,” she said. “I think he brings the joy of the game, and when you see players play with that joy and that competitiveness, that’s what you fall in love with. He’s just brought all of that.”
Of course, Jackson is in New York but it remains to be seen for how long, where he goes and if its colors are purple and gold. Jackson and his fiance, Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss, both deny it’s happening. That’s absolutely true ... as far as it goes ... until Phil’s opt-out on July 1, 2017, with insiders close to both saying he could still wind up with the Lakers.
Not that Jackson is sitting around thinking about the Lakers at present with ore immediate challenges, like sticking it to everyone who says he can’t do his present job. Like all issues involving free agency, Phil’s availability will depend on the last thing that happens this season. The Knicks’ finish will decide if owner Jim Dolan is happy paying Jackson $12 million annually, which will decide if Phil feels like staying. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In any case, the situation is fluid.
(Actually, it’s unlikely that Kupchak, who worked easily with Jackson, would have objected to something ownership wanted to do. If Jim didn’t want Phil, it was because of his own issues with him.) Stung as Jeanie was, she wasn’t then inclined to fight Jim, knowing her father didn’t want an inter-organizational struggle. Instead, she took Jim up on his off-hand vow to leave if he couldn’t get the team back in two years – which she took to mean making the Western Conference finals by this season – or in other words, so long, Jimbo!
The Los Angeles Lakers announced today the hirings of Jennifer Swanson as Head Physical Therapist, Stacey Robinson as Massage Therapist, and Sean Light as Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. The trio will report to Head Athletic Trainer Marco Nuñez, joining Assistant Athletic Trainer Nina Hsieh, Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim DiFrancesco, and Equipment Manager Carlos Maples on the training staff.
An ominous cloud looms over the Lakers, however. Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss said in 2014 he would step down if the Lakers do not become a Western Conference contender in three years. Lakers president Jeanie Buss has often said she would hold the front office accountable with unspecified changes if that does not happen. All of which perpetuates uncertainty on if Kupchak’s focus on development could conflict with Jeanie Buss’ focus on results. “I’m not in a position to debate the stuff you talked about,” Kupchak said on Tuesday at UC Santa Barbara. “I’m not sure what was said with certainty. From my point of view, we’ve created a team that has a lot of young talent that can grow into really good NBA players that can leave an imprint on this league. I think we’ve surrounded them with older veterans to help us win games. I’m excited about our coaching staff.”
The Lakers acquired some intriguing veteran, including a rim protector (Timofey Mozgov), a versatile forward (Luol Deng) and steady point guard (Jose Calderon). Yet, who knows how much any of those players can both produce and mentor as much as the Lakers hope they do. “I want to see improvement in the young players,” Kupchak said. “I want to see some production from our rookies and I want our team to be fun to watch. I want them to have fun playing. I want them to get better as the season goes along. But I don’t know how that translates into anything else under my control.”
So Jim told people that Carmelo Anthony was coming the next summer. He told people that Howard was staying the previous year. He told people as soon as the Lakers' recent season was winding down that Kevin Durant was coming this summer…with Russell Westbrook the next.
But when Jackson started talking with the New York Knicks about being in charge of their basketball operations, the siblings scrambled not to lose him. That triggered a contentious email chain. Jim phoned some individually to lobby them to change their votes, according to team and league sources. Only Johnny, who had his own stretch of time not speaking to Jim, stood with Jim in opposition to hiring Jackson in some capacity.
The thing is, Jackson is legitimately committed to getting the Knicks on the upswing. As attractive as the prospects of molding Walton and helping Jeanie are—and how much more weight he has representing the Lakers teams he won with— the Lakers want Jackson more than he wants them.
Of course, there is another possibility the Busses discuss regularly, a guy who is practically family—Phil Jackson. He can opt out of his Knicks contract in a year, and he's believed to be able to get out of it the year after that, too. Despite Jackson's limited results in New York, he has served an obvious purpose for James Dolan, taking the heat off the owner by accepting it himself. That is something the Buss family has noticed as a worthwhile formula as they continue to take their hits, besides how useful Jackson might be recruiting free agents even if he doesn't do day-to-day work.
Bryant would have tremendous appeal as a high-ranking official, but he is focused on his own business pursuits. Magic Johnson has made clear his disdain for Jim and is extremely interested in having a meaningful role with the Lakers.
Jerry envisioned youngest sons Joey, 31, and Jesse, 28, having highly prominent roles at some point. Both are cited by team sources as smart and diligent in their current roles. They have a different mother than the four elder siblings—and a very different backstory. Joey and Jesse grew up in San Diego, far removed from their father's glamorous life, and they acted almost like two shy kids in awe when they got into it.
Jeanie Buss: People think that Phil is going to come back here to L.A. and it’s not true. He’s signed a five-year agreement. He is happy where he is. What I am getting from people in New York is that he’s just doing it for the money. Phil doesn’t do anything for the money. He’s completely devoted to this job.
Jeanie Buss: The NBA requires there to be one decision-maker. Every team has to have one designated governor who is held accountable for all decisions that are made on behalf of the organization. I am that person. I am held accountable also by our shareholders, the majority of whom are the Buss family, but we have other shareholders who own stock in the Lakers. Lakers basketball isn’t about any one style or any one system. Lakers basketball is about winning.
Jeanie Buss: All the years that my dad owned the team, we never missed out on the playoffs more than one year. And we are now at three years in a row. I want [brother Jim Buss, Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations and part-owner] to be successful. I want him to make the decisions that he is confident in making and putting the basketball team together the way he sees fit. You know, we have to give him that opportunity.
Bill Oram: Magic Johnson will no longer be listed in Lakers staff directory. His title had been strictly ceremonial https://t.co/ARs1eeAJhG
"Earvin will always be a revered and beloved member of the Lakers family, but he does not have a position or role with the organization at the time," Lakers spokesman John Black said in a statement. "He is not an adviser or a consultant, and his opinions, comments and social media posts are solely his, and do not represent or reflect those of Lakers ownership of management. Hopefully this will eliminate any confusion over this issue in the future."
Jackson has three seasons remaining on his five-year deal with the Knicks. Speculation about Jackson's potential return to Los Angeles will likely continue because his contract contains an opt-out clause after the 2016-17 season, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard.
"We talked about it as a family," Jeanie Buss said Monday of Jim Buss' stance. "My brother spoke about it publicly. It is something that I think he's very sincere in when he says that if he can't get this team to where we're competitive, being in the playoffs, second round, competing for the Western Conference final. He would feel that he isn't living up to the job that my father left to him, and he [Jim] made it clear if he couldn't do the job that he would step aside and make sure that somebody would come in and do that because that's how much he loves the Lakers. That's how much my family loves the Lakers."
Jim Buss, part-owner and executive vice president of basketball operations, could well be gone next summer and so could Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. Could Phil Jackson return? Such questions loom heavy over the Lakers' future. "The number one thing is this," said one source familiar with both the Warriors and Lakers. "The Lakers are dysfunctional as an organization. A coach can't change this."
The source told SNY.tv that Ollie -- who led UConn to the 2014 NCAA championship -- would want at least some involvement in player personnel decisions with the Lakers. "He's gotta be involved in player personnel decisions," the source said. "Mitch Kupchak has to be willing to involve him in player personnel. He has to have a say-so in that."
The Lakers’ boss discussed the state of the Lakers at length with USA TODAY Sports in her visit on the NBA A to Z podcast recently, and this much is clear about the way she sees their world. There is no change to the timeline that Jim first shared in April of 2014, when he indicated that he would resign if the team wasn’t contending for a title by next season. Since then, it has become clear that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak would likely be part of this equation as well.
Translation: despite recent speculation that she might expedite the timeline in order to bring her fiancé, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson, back to the Lakers, there is no such covert plan as it relates to next summer. Jackson signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Knicks in March of 2014. “It really isn’t about trying to get him back here (to the Lakers),” Buss said. “He is happy with what he is doing, and he … is up for the (Knicks) challenge, and he’s seeing the results of the work that he’s put in. But he has a ways to go.”
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August 17, 2022 | 4:55 am EDT Update
NBA analyst Brian Windhorst discussed the trade situation earlier this week on ESPN’s Get Up. Windhorst inferred that Durant has lost all of the leverage in the trade talks but so did the Nets. “The dynamic around Kevin Durant hasn’t changed at all. There hasn’t been an urgency in trade talks. There hasn’t been a change in strategy by the Brooklyn Nets,” said Windhorst. Windhorst reported, “I think what we have here is really a study of leverage. First off, the Nets do not have leverage in trade talks with other teams. They are not giving them the offers that they want. They see no reason to increase them. So, they’re not making any progress there. Kevin Durant clearly does not have leverage with the Brooklyn Nets. He is asking for things: ‘Get me traded. Fire the coach. Fire the GM.’ He is being told no. So, when you have denied leverage, you have a stalemate.”
While Kevin Durant continues to prefer a trade from the Brooklyn Nets and the trade offers the team has received haven’t satisfied them, the two parties have remained in limbo throughout the offseason. The Nets will continue to listen to trade offers, but they are also hoping Durant changes his mind and gives their team another chance this season. “What’s kind of developed over those 47 days is we now kind of have two different negotiations,” said Brian Windhorst on NBA Today on Tuesday. “One, of course, is with all those teams interested in Kevin Durant and the Nets. We just haven’t seen significant traction with any of those deals. The Nets’ asking price is very high. Their leverage for getting those teams who are interested in offering so much just hasn’t materialized.
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“The other negotiation that is now developing is between Durant and the Nets. That separate negotiation about what it would like for him to come back. That’s what a big part of the discussion he had with owner Joe Tsai in London about 10, 11 days ago was. Joe Tsai and the Nets believe they have a really good team. They don’t believe they have a good trade for Kevin Durant. They want him to consider coming back. But Durant has very clearly made it known he doesn’t want to play for the Nets under the current situation with the current coach and current GM.
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Speculation ran rampant: pundits and fans alike wondered whether he had any desire to play on the team, whether he’d be the first player in NBA history to turn down a max rookie extension, whether he’d prove one of the most significant busts in NBA draft history. Much of the chatter focused uncomfortably on his size. As he’s so often done during difficult times, Williamson turned to his favorite show for guidance. I ask if there’s a point in Naruto’s story that he feels is synonymous with where he is right now. His answer is immediate. “It’s when Sasuke was going rogue,” he says, referring to Naruto’s close friend and rival. “All of Naruto’s friends and teammates came to him like, ‘Dude, you’re gonna have to make tough decisions if you really want to be Hokage.’”