Give Magic Johnson’s Lakers a chance
Timing was the most surprising element of Jeanie Buss firing her brother, Jim, as executive vice president of basketball operations, and general manager Mitch Kupchak. They were the two principal executives working to deal players with the trade deadline looming and preparing for the upcoming draft.
But, in retrospect, it’s understandable and it was time — she no longer trusted her brother and Kupchak to lead the organization.
This move was a scrubbing of history. Kupchak has been with the Lakers in some capacity for 30 years and its GM for the past 10 seasons. He orchestrated the Pau Gasol trade that propelled the Lakers to back-to-back championships, which means he’s played an important role in the idea of Lakers exceptionalism that Jeanie is now trying to restore. He’s as Lakers as it gets, and he’s been unceremoniously ousted.
Firing Jim has all the hallmarks of sibling rivalry and power struggles. But, it has to be stated that it was Jim who gave himself a three-year deadline to field a contender and vowed that he would step down otherwise. All Jeanie did, in this regard, was hold her brother to his word.
Reports have alluded to Jim and Kupchak’s failure to execute a trade for DeMarcus Cousins — mostly due to a refusal to include rookie Brandon Ingram in the deal — as the last straw. That’s when Lakers exceptionalism came into play. If the Lakers — historically the league’s glamour franchise — can’t even acquire one of the best big men in the NBA from a team that, given their eventual deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, seemed willing to practically give him away, then the organization had reached a critical juncture. Four straight season in the lottery is the polar opposite of Lakers exceptionalism. Something had to be done.
So they’ve turned to the most exceptional figure in franchise history. Magic Johnson has been tasked with the mission of returning “the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect.” A tough task for anyone, let alone a man who has no experience as a GM or president of ops, and whose basketball tweets inspire mockery rather than confidence.
The Dallas Mavericks’ trade for Rajon Rondo puts them in position to…