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#pounditThursday, January 26, 2023

Magic Johnson still influencing decision-making for Lakers?

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson may have quit the Los Angeles Lakers front office a few years ago, but it appears that he is still poking his head in from time to time.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss spoke with Bill Oram of The Athletic this week for a feature on Johnson and made some curious comments about Johnson’s continued influence on the team.

“To me, he’s still working with us,” she said. “In terms of an official capacity, in the NBA, you have to be very clear as to who can negotiate on your behalf and who can’t. So he doesn’t have that official designation. But in terms of his support, his wisdom, his insight, I freely call on him as needed.

“I just sat down with him,” Buss added about Johnson, “And I said, ‘Should I be concerned? What are you seeing?’ And he just talked about, you know, the injuries and that the team hadn’t had a chance to be together … So, you know, he’s very calm and insightful. And it, you know, I appreciate his seeing the big picture instead of reacting to every game.”

Oram’s feature contains other anecdotes about the Lakers and Johnson’s illustrious career with them. You can read it in full here.

Johnson was officially hired by the Lakers as their president of basketball operations in 2017 but abruptly resigned less than two years later without a single playoff appearance to show for it. He also made several questionable moves such as trading Ivica Zubac to the rival LA Clippers for pennies on the dollar, letting Julius Randle and Brook Lopez walk for nothing, and signing guys like Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson instead. Though Johnson was able to land LeBron James during his tenure, it is an open question as to how much Johnson’s recruiting actually mattered and how much James was already setting on coming to Los Angeles.

The Lakers legend Johnson continuing to have an influence on decisions for the team, even after quitting, would be very on-brand for Buss’ way of doing things. While she has been a major upgrade over her brother Jim, Buss has prefered to run the Lakers more like a family than like a business. But that has given rise to a culture of nepotism as Buss gives power and influence to former Lakers legends, not all of whom are necessarily qualified to have it. In recent weeks, the influence of another Showtime-era Laker has come under scrutiny as well.

Photo: Mar 23, 2018; Omaha, NE, USA; NBA former player Magic Johnson watches during the first half between the Clemson Tigers and the Kansas Jayhawks in the semifinals of the Midwest regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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