Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James didn’t believe it when he was told Magic Johnson had stepped down as president of basketball operations for the Lakers. In his first public comments since Johnson decided to leave the Lakers in April before the season ended, James relayed the story of how he found out from Randy Mims, James’ chief of staff. “My right hand comes to me and says, ‘Magic just stepped down,’ ” James said on HBO’s The Shop, which aired Saturday. “I’m like, ‘You mean from out of his car? Get the (expletive) out of my face.’ … He’s like, ‘Go check your phone.’ “
James, who was in the Lakers’ locker room but not playing in that night’s game, checked his phone. Indeed, Johnson held an impromptu and bizarre news conference, informing reporters of his resignation. "No one had no idea," James said on his show. "We were like, 'Damn, like right now?' It was literally 70 minutes on the clock before (the game). I’m not playing, but my team is still playing, and you kind of decide to do that right here, right now. I feel like there’s a time and place for things, and I believe that you knew that you were going to make that decision, so why would you do it here and why would you do it now?"
"Personally for me, I came here to be a part of the Lakers organization, having a conversation with Magic (last summer) and really kind of breaking it down and saying how we were going to make this 'Showtime' again, and I wanted to be part of that process," James said.
"He explained to me Year 1 is going to be tough. ... But I was OK with the process. At Year 16, you aren’t really supposed to be worrying about no damn process, especially for me because I’m in championship-mind mode all the time. "So it was just weird for him to just be like, 'I'm out of here' and not even have no like, 'Hey Bron, kiss my (expletive). I’m out of here.' I would’ve been OK with that. 'Hey Bron, it’s Magic. Kiss my (expletive), I’m gone.' Not even that."
James and Paul met with Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka on the Saturday before that franchise-altering press conference for what was essentially James’ exit interview. They talked about the team’s and James’ goals for the offseason, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting. There was no indication that Johnson was on his way out. Then, about 90 minutes before the finale to one of the most disappointing seasons in Lakers history, Johnson held an impromptu press conference. He told a throng of reporters he was stepping down because the job wasn’t making him happy, because he didn’t want to have to ask owner Jeanie Buss to fire Luke Walton as coach, and because he was tired of being accused of tampering with other teams’ players so frequently.
Tania Ganguli: The episode of The Shop that aired tonight was filmed April 11. Two days after Magic Johnson’s infamous press conference. In talking about Johnson’s move, LeBron James spoke as if he felt betrayed.
Both Los Angeles teams are seeking to hit the mother lode this summer but, as usual, they’re 180 degrees apart. The difference is that it’s the Clippers, once the local wretches, who have it together, coming off a surprising season and a heroic effort in their first-round loss to the Warriors with a strong nucleus, a sharp front office, achievable goals and only modest expectations, as in who ever notices what they do?
At this crossroad, the Lakers are still preeminent in town. Horrid as their season was, and noble as the Clippers’ season was, the Lakers had a 2.23 cable, more than four times the Clippers’ 0.56 rating. Unfortunately for the Lakers, they’re at a low ebb with sky high goals and huge expectations but new, uncertain management and no nucleus to speak of, since they would trade any, or all, of their players aside from LeBron James. The teams have one thing in common: About to commit the huge cap room they spent years accumulating, this is their last, best chance to be someone.
Nobody knows for certain who is running the Los Angeles Lakers right now. Rob Pelinka seems to be entrenched as the general manager of the team, but there is still a stubborn faction of reporters convinced that a new president of basketball operations is coming before the offseason begins in earnest. Jeanie Buss is the team's owner, but according to Amin Elhassan on ESPN (via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports), Linda Rambis is the one that's actually pulling the strings. "Some agents and GMs around the league have dubbed her the shadow owner of the Lakers, that everything goes through Linda Rambis, and if you want to convince Jeanie of something, you’ve got to get Linda first." Ramona Shelburne later confirmed this as the status quo in Lakerland.
And now, with less than three months remaining before free agency formally begins and with the Anthony Davis trade talks with New Orleans expected to re-start as well, this question remains: Is Pelinka capable of steering the Lakers out of this abyss — hiring the right coach to replace the departed Luke Walton, closing a deal or two along the way — and fulfilling their title-contending dreams? It depends on whom you ask, but the vast majority of agents and executives polled by The Athletic have serious doubts. Pelinka has no shortage of detractors around the league, with the issues raised ranging from his trustworthiness to his communication style and relatability. The question of trust has dogged Pelinka since 2004, when his then-client Carlos Boozer reneged on a verbal commitment to re-sign with Cleveland and took a more lucrative offer with Utah.
But there are also respected power brokers who say they’ve had functional and positive experiences dealing with Pelinka, and who believe that his background as a player (he went to two Finals Fours with those Fab Five Michigan teams), attorney and prominent agent who built and ran his own agency is a fit for the Lakers. What’s more, Pelinka was widely known to be handling the lion’s share of the daily duties before Johnson’s departure. He was, in essence, running the front office already.
Yet while rumblings remain that Buss might replace Johnson with an elite front office executive at some point, and with so much pressure from local and national media to conduct a comprehensive search for a new president of basketball operations who isn’t required to have deep Lakers ties, a source with knowledge of her plan insists that this front office is Pelinka’s to run. At least for now.
According to sources, the Lakers never reached out to LeBron’s former general manager in Cleveland, David Griffin, before he agreed to join New Orleans. Sources also say that they haven’t reached out to the Warriors regarding general manager Bob Myers. Ditto for Jerry West, the Clippers consultant who told The Athletic recently that he wasn’t sure what his future held past this summer but who now appears likely to remain in his current role going forward. (Ideas had circulated about West possibly heading for the Lakers alongside a younger, high-level GM.)
The Lakers remain holed up with no team official having appeared in public since Magic Johnson resigned April 9. Jeanie Buss is reportedly going forward with Rob Pelinka but has yet to confirm that, or let him appear to reassure fans... and free agents... that they’re still the Lakers, proceeding on the same agenda. As little as Pelinka’s controversy-filled career as an agent prepared him for this, he’s a bright guy who can handle himself in public. Jeanie won’t even trust him with that.
Criticized for not looking outside the organization, Jeanie’s answer is More Family. A veritable delegation of Busses went to Philadelphia last week to interview 76er assistant coach Monty Williams: Jeanie, Jesse Buss, Joey Buss, plus Pelinka, Linda and Kurt Rambis and Tim Harris, yet another Laker executive who hasn’t participated in basketball ops until now. Ominously for the Lakers, July 1 is looming with free agents gathering final impressions of who’s dynamic and who’s defunct.
Yet while rumblings remain that Buss might replace Johnson with an elite front office executive at some point, and with so much pressure from local and national media to conduct a comprehensive search for a new president of basketball operations who isn’t required to have deep Lakers ties, a source with knowledge of Jeanie’s plan insists that this front office is Pelinka’s to run. At least for now.
According to sources, the Lakers never reached out to LeBron’s former general manager in Cleveland, Dave Griffin, before he agreed to join New Orleans. Sources also say that they haven’t reached out to the Warriors regarding general manager Bob Myers. Ditto for Jerry West, the Clippers consultant who told The Athletic recently that he wasn’t sure what his future held past this summer but now appears likely to remain in his current role going forward (ideas had circulated about West possibly heading for the Lakers alongside a younger, high-level GM). Pat Riley’s name has been discussed in media circles as well – and his ties to LeBron from their Miami days as well as the Lakers organization would certainly qualify as a unique and high-level fit – but the Heat president made it clear in his postseason press conference that he has no interest.
The real reasons for Magic’s departure remain somewhat murky, but a source with knowledge of the situation adamantly denied the report indicating that Jeanie had mistakenly shared e-mails with Johnson that were critical of his job performance. Johnson did his best to break it all down during that surreal press conference in which he announced that he was done, but the truth is that it simply doesn’t matter anymore.
Kidd's interview was with general manager Rob Pelinka, as well as team executive Kurt Rambis and was conducted at the team's practice facility in El Segundo, California. The interview with the Hall of Fame point guard lasted for several hours, sources told ESPN.
On April 9, Magic Johnson resigned as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, telling reporters before telling Jeanie Buss or any other member of the organization. Buss has no plans to hire someone to replace Johnson, who is still expected to be part of the Lakers’ free-agent recruiting this summer in some capacity.
Empowered by Buss to run the coaching search, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka met with Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams this week, with plans to interview both again next week. While those second interviews have not been officially scheduled yet, they are expected to include Buss.
The first week of the search followed a chaotic week for the franchise. On April 9, Magic Johnson resigned as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, telling reporters before telling Buss or any other member of the organization. Buss has no plans to hire someone to replace Johnson, who is still expected to be part of the Lakers’ free-agent recruiting this summer in some capacity.
Okay, so that’s probably not what actually happened, but lending credence to the theory is Johnson’s latest interview/ambushing with TMZ, in which he continued to explain his decision to leave, while also confirming that he isn’t totally stepping away: “No. The same,” Johnson said when asked if he would’ve done things any differently if he had them to do over again. “Everybody knows I love the Lakers, and so I’m gonna always help them. Like right now, I’m gonna still help them. I love my team, I love my franchise, and I love this city. “You have to do things sometimes on your own terms. It doesn’t matter what other people think, see? And I’m that guy. But I’m still helping them. It’s almost like I never left (laughs). I’m still talking to them every day,” Johnson continued. “I’m gonna help them get the Lakers back right, you can believe that.”
If no one knows what’s going on, it’s likely that Jeanie Buss has reached out to Bryant. A source says Kobe’s importance to Jeanie explains why Pelinka, whom Magic gored, remains in place with enhanced powers and no thought of replacing him…. As for any hope Bryant will ride to the rescue, he’s not one to agonize about decisions. If he had any interest in taking over, we would have heard about it by now.
In numerous rival organizations, there is both shock and relief that the Lakers haven’t responded to events of the past week by chasing the likes of Golden State’s Bob Myers, San Antonio’s R.C. Buford and Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti before they go looking for a new coach.
Industry estimates suggest Morey’s recent contract extension from the Rockets pays him in the $8 million range annually. Johnson was earning an estimated $10 million as the Lakers’ team president. Given the TV riches that the Lakers bring in, Buss could presumably double those figures in a pitch to the game’s elite executives.
Listen: The Lakers are apparently not looking for a replacement for Magic Johnson as team president, via @wojespn with @SedanoESPN & @minakimes 🔊
Ramona Shelburne: Pelinka will run the Lakers coaching search. As @Adrian Wojnarowski reported Ty Lue is one of the leading candidates. The expectation is they will talk to others, too, though.
While there's no love lost for the Lakers' front office, Buss carries a fair amount of goodwill around the league. Unlike some of her big-market brethren and sistren, Buss has recognized the plight of the small-market franchise as central to the core mission of the NBA. Her noblesse oblige has conveyed that what's good for the NBA is good for the Lakers, and it's a sentiment that hasn't been lost on fellow owners and executives.
Magic Johnson: .@JeanieBuss it was an honor and pleasure working side by side with you every single day coming up with strategy on how we could make the @Lakers better on the court and in the community. It was a dream of your father and my mentor and father figure, Dr. Jerry Buss, for us to work together and it finally came to fruition. I know how bad you want to win a championship for all @Lakers fans @JeanieBuss and under your leadership that will happen soon. I will always love you and will always be your brother from another mother. Laker for life! ❤️
“Honestly, they need to hire an experienced general manager with credibility and let him fire Rob,” the agent said. “Let that president that come in, let him have the authority to hire his staff and to hire their head coach if he doesn’t want Luke Walton.”
So how does one go about doing business with Pelinka? It could be tough: “Obviously you can’t. I can’t,” an agent said. “I haven’t even done any business with him, because either I don’t have something that he wants or he just won’t respond to stuff.”
Magic Johnson has ZERO regrets after leaving the Lakers -- in fact, he's super happy about his decision ... so says his wife Cookie Johnson. Just 24 hours after Magic shockingly stepped down as the team's President of Basketball Operations, Cookie and E.J. Johnson hit up Mr. Chow on Wednesday -- where they looked pretty relieved. "Just know that [Magic Johnson] is happy and we're happy for him," Cookie told us on the way out of the restaurant ... "No regrets."
If there is one team that could make Myers consider leaving the Warriors dynasty, it would be the Lakers. He’s of Danville origins, but Myers is definitely Los Angeles verified. He went to UCLA, where he played basketball and helped with the school’s long search for a new men’s basketball coach, which ended with Mick Cronin’s introduction on Tuesday with Myers in attendance. He got his law degree in Los Angeles while working his way up the ranks of Los Angeles-based Wasserman Media Group. He has a good relationship with Kobe Bryant, the Mr. Laker of this era, whom Myers worked with during his agent days.
But why would Myers want to go to the Lakers? Well, for starters, money. According to Sam Amick, national NBA writer for The Athletic — as he discussed on the new “Tampering” podcast — Magic was making $10 million a year with the Lakers. No, Myers does not make that much with the Warriors. Maybe about half that. Myers definitely makes less than Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who recently signed a contract extension at a number the Warriors have been diligent about keeping close to the vest.
LeBron James was stunned to learn of Magic Johnson's decision to step down as the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations, a source with knowledge of James' thinking told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne on Wednesday. But despite Johnson's abrupt resignation, James stands behind Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and the organization, the source told Shelburne.
The team is still assessing Johnson's decision, but general manager Rob Pelinka will stay in his job, and, if anything, his power will grow, sources told Shelburne.
Brian Windhorst: “I think Jeanie was aware that Magic might resign. I don’t think it came out of the clear blue sky. I don’t know if she knew he was going to have a press conference before the game but they definitely, from what I’ve told, after that [three-hour] meeting that they had I think it was yesterday, knew this was an option or this was something that could happen.”
Ryan Ward: Kyle Kuzma on Magic Johnson resigning as Lakers president: "To be honest, I was a little bit shocked. Just like everybody else was. It wasn't predicted. Nobody had that on their minds."
Ryan Ward: Kyle Kuzma on Magic Johnson: "For Magic, he's Magic Johnson. He doesn't need to prove to anybody anything. He just made the best decision for him. That's all you can ask and that's all anybody in this world would want to do for themselves."
Tania Ganguli: Kuzma is asked about Magic's assertion players need to grow up/media babies them. He begins: "I mean for me I will never say nothing bad about Magic. He’s theguy that gave me an opportunity to come in this league and play for this great organization." Adds that Johnson is right.
Magic Johnson: Thank you to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, General Manager Rob Pelinka, Coach Luke Walton, the Lakers players & the entire basketball operations staff for the tremendous opportunity to serve as the President of Basketball Operations for the @Lakers. I will always be a Laker for life.
Chris Grenham: Danny Ainge tells @Toucherandrich that he hasn’t reached out to Magic Johnson and he probably won’t. Said they don’t have that kind of relationship but he has a great deal of respect for Magic.
He didn’t have the professionalism to tell LeBron, a source close to James confirmed, forcing one of the greatest players of all time to learn about Johnson’s decision through the media. Never mind, as the source also confirmed, that LeBron had met with Johnson, Pelinka, and his agent, Rich Paul, on Saturday to discuss the future of the franchise without even a hint that this was coming. Three days later, Johnson was engaging in a 40-minute public therapy session with reporters that only sparked more questions about what he had done.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently gave Magic Johnson permission to fire coach Luke Walton at the conclusion of this season after being informed of Walton’s unwillingness to “bulk up" his coaching staff, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Johnson, who held an impromptu news conference outside the Lakers’ locker room Tuesday to announce his resignation as president before the team’s final game of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers, had been displeased with Walton’s ability to effectively make in-game adjustments and he felt the coaching staff lacked the experience and expertise to foster player development, sources said.
Johnson wanted to replace Walton during the season, but Buss was reluctant to venture down that road until now, sources said. The 59-year-old business mogul told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday he had the power to do what he saw fit for the franchise and said what would have transpired after exit interviews on Wednesday had nothing to do with why he made the shocking decision to resign.
Lakers Statement on Earvin "Magic" Johnson: There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson. We are deeply grateful to Magic for all that he has done for our franchise – as a player, an ambassador and an executive. We thank him for his work these past two years as our President of Basketball Operations.
Bill Oram: A glimpse of Magic Johnson’s exit, concluding with Magic telling other media members, “I want you to take care of my Michigan State guy,” @Ohm Youngmisuk. pic.twitter.com/qdljCVlqVv
Arash Markazi: LeBron James didn’t address the media and had his security try to stop reporters who came near him. LeBron on the phone: “Crazy, crazy, crazy.” Yep. pic.twitter.com/PObznj26Rd
Arash Markazi: What’s your reaction to the Magic news? JaVale McGee: “I don’t got no reaction.” Were you surprised? McGee: “Yeah.”
Tania Ganguli: Magic Johnson said Jeanie Buss will not be at today’s game. He’s going to try to see her either today or tomorrow. Regardless he will call her when he gets out of here.
Ryan Ward: Magic Johnson on stint as Lakers president: "I'm happy with what we did in 2 years. I'm not disappointed on anything I did, any trade I made. None of that.."
Ryan Ward: Magic Johnson on if Anthony Davis situation played into resignation: "No. That had nothing to do with it. We want to improve the team. That's what my job is to do, and then you guys made it like, 'Oh, the young guys..."
Adrian Wojnarowski: Luke Walton has two years left on his contract, but only next season is guaranteed, per source. Lakers hold option on 2020-21 season. Johnson planned to fire him, but stumbled into his own resignation on the way. Somehow, Walton survived Magic Johnson. He didn't see that coming.
Mark Medina: Steve Kerr respectfully declined to comment on Magic Johnson stepping down as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations.
Mark Medina: In light of Magic Johnson stepping down as the Lakers' president of basketball operations, Draymond Green asked if anything in the NBA shocks him: "Not at all. Nothing."
Chris Mannix: Magic Johnson had a three-hour meeting with @Jeanie Buss yesterday, per Johnson. They discussed the direction of the organization. He gave no indication he no longer wanted to be part of it.
Bill Oram: On Jeanie: “I think she’s going to be caught off guard. And I think she’ll be hurt by not having somebody she can trust...” Says once she sees his face she’ll understand this was the right decision for him.
Mike Bresnahan: Magic said this was his “final decision” and alluded that he couldn’t be talked out of stepping down from the job as Lakers president of basketball operations.
Mike Vorkunov: Magic Johnson is joking around, asking if he can get a job on ESPN. "I need a job." This is amazing.
Mike Bresnahan: Magic said he really enjoyed recruiting LeBron, specifically that part of the job as president of basketball operations. He maintained that the Lakers “were not that far” from other teams talent-wise. Cited injuries as the reason for the season’s downturn.
Tania Ganguli: Magic talks about D’Angelo Russell and says congratulations to him. He adds he couldn’t say that before or it would have been tampering. Also says Russell matured and that’s why he’s an All Star now.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson did not endorse anyone to fill his position but said Jeanie Buss will undoubtedly field dozens of phone calls from interested parties.
Kevin Ding: Magic on stepping down as Lakers president to return to his old life: “I’ll still help the Lakers in any way I can.”
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson is acknowledging media members, broadcasters and Staples Center employees by name as he looks out at the crowd around him.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson says the decision was not over Luke Walton’s job status. He says making this announcement, which, Jeanie Buss isn’t aware of yet, is a “monkey off my back.”
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson said he will return to community work and reaching out to players around the league to help in their development: “I’m a free bird and I can’t be handcuffed ... This is a good day.”
Tania Ganguli: “I was happier when I wasn’t the president,” Johnson says. He says his relationship with Jeanie will be better when he’s not in this position. Calls this a monkey off his back.
Tania Ganguli: “It’s hard when you love an organization like I love this organization,” Magic Johnson says as he starts to cry. “It’s hard when you love a person like I love Jeanie.” Talks about how much Jeanie loves Luke too.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson has cried, he’s laughed. He’s speaking completely off the cuff and taking any and all questions. A remarkable day in Lakers history.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Lakers coaching staff fully expected to be fired in hours after the final game of the season. They had believed they were gone for months. Now? Magic quits in public, saying he's too scared to tell Jeanie Buss face-to-face. What an embarrassing episode for a historic franchise.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson says that his position doesn’t allow him to be a statesman of the game of basketball. He says he wants to go back to his wonderful life away from this position. “I was happier when I wasn’t the president (of the Lakers)”
Tania Ganguli: Magic Johnson steps down as Lakers president. He hasn’t said it outright but is hinting strongly that he planned to fire Luke Walton and that won’t happen now. He is getting emotional and hasn’t told Jeanie yet he says.
Chris Haynes: Magic Johnson says he likes to be free to congratulate players such as Russell Westbrook when he hit the 20–20-20 mark. Says he couldn’t be himself and he hasn’t informed Jeanie Buss yet.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Since taking over as president of the Lakers, Magic Johnson never fully committed to the job. Often he was traveling and away from the team. His office hours were limited. He didn't do a lot of scouting. Running an NBA team takes a tremendous commitment of time and energy.
August 9, 2022 | 6:25 pm EDT Update
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the meeting took place this past Saturday, and Kevin Durant indicated that he could stay with Brooklyn if general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash were no longer there. Understandably, peers of Marks and Nash were not happy. “I get that players have more power these days, but I think it’s a little too far if he’s out here trying to get Steve fired,” said one coach, who was quickly reminded of Magic Johnson’s fingerprints on Paul Westhead’s firing back in November of 1981 and other power plays, some of which may well have been justified.
The head of basketball ops from another club was similarly displeased. “Livid,” he said. “Livid. He and Kyrie (Irving) basically told Sean they were coming (as free agents in 2019), and Sean did pretty much everything they wanted after that. Signing DeAndre Jordan for four years? That’s something Kyrie and KD wanted. Getting James Harden? Then getting a guy who should be a perfect complement to them (Ben Simmons) when Harden wanted out? Sean did all that.”
However, when asked if he would welcome Durant to his own club should he be attainable at a fair price, the exec paused and laughed. “Well … ” he said. “OK, you got me there. But, see, that’s the part of this that will always be hard for some people to grasp. I’m talking about the fans who just see the players as employees. These guys are not interchangeable parts. You can’t just plug in someone else to do what KD does.”
Marc Stein: Dallas plans to hire former NBA swingman Marko Milič — Slovenia’s first NBA player — to join the coaching staff in player development, league sources confirm. Milič obviously knows Luka Dončić well and played with Jason Kidd in Phoenix. More NBA from me: marcstein.Substack.com
Detroit Pistons center Kelly Olynyk is a married man! The basketball star, 31, wed his longtime love Jackie McNulty, 31, in a traditional, yet playful, outdoor ceremony at Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez, California Saturday, as personal guests of the winery’s owners.