Magic Johnson took a blowtorch to the Lakers on ESPN’s First Take

Magic Johnson
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Former Los Angeles Lakers President of Basketball Operations and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson appeared on ESPN’s First Take Monday morning and he spoke candidly about the team that once employed him as both a player and as a member of Los Angeles’ brass.

According to the tale that Johnson spun to Molly Qerim, Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman, the Lakers’ current basketball crusade is without a leader when it comes to their front office quarters, and there appear to be the makings of a power struggle amongst those with suction in the say of hoops affairs.

Just like he was known to do during his days as Los Angeles’ star point guard, Johnson dished out a host of reasons as to why he decided to step down from his position in such an unceremonious way.

He cited being “backstabbed,” by current General Manager Rob Pelinka as being a key reason for his resignation, as well as how the negative chatter in the Lakers’ workspace about his absentness eeked into his core group of friends that he keeps outside of his job and left a bad taste in his mouth.

Johnson also mentioned having his power circumvented in certain situations, such as when he wanted to fire head coach Luke Walton and presumably hire Ty Lue, despite being promised the power to authorize such moves when he was granted the position.

He also stated that blowback on firing Walton was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” when it came to his departure.

Having his faculty minimized and the fun zapped out of work was enough to send Johnson spilling out the door.

There’s a lot to unpack from Johnson’s interview, and there are a series of videos on ESPN’s YouTube page from his segment on today’s show.

Magic and the First Take trio also discussed whether or not he could’ve stepped down a different way, if LeBron James truly has a chance to elevate the Lakers from the doldrums, the failed Anthony Davis trade, and if Jeanie Buss and her family decided to sell the Lakers, would he emerge as a potential suitor.

Social media is running with the idea that Johnson “snitched,” on the Lakers, but to me, it’s merely a confirmation that the Lakers are in a state of uncharted disarray.

Kurt Rambis, Rob Pelinka, Tim Harris, and the Buss Brothers, Jim, and Johnny are all scrapping over Lakers jurisdiction and Jeanie Buss is both overwhelmed by the number of voices attempting to influence her, and according to Johnson, conflicted by personal attachments to certain employees.

It’s evident that the Lakers are currently mismanaged, and fans should not be enthused about going into a critical, potentially franchise-altering offseason with a front office team spearheaded by Rambis.

His track record speaks for itself.

Let’s also acknowledge that Johnson isn’t exempt from criticism when it comes to the Lakers’ recent downslide.

Magic Johnson
Photo via: USA Today

He did a questionable job of stocking the Lakers’ roster with talent that was fit for a LeBron James-led team, traded D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets (although it shed Timofey Mozgov’s horrid contract off their books), and let both Julius Randle and Brook Lopez walk in free agency, shortcomings he all touched on during his appearance on First Take.

A lot of light was shed on the issues that have been torching the Lakers these past few months, and now as they pivot towards the NBA Draft, where they have the No. 4 overall pick, and then eventually free agency.

The basketball world wants to know, how will the dice roll for mighty Los Angeles?

Will they be able to re-engage the New Orleans Pelicans on the Anthony Davis trade front, and cook up a package that whets their appetite?

What will the ramifications of Johnson’s appearance be, and how much of the negative perception of the Lakers around the league will discourage a star from signing there?

Are Kyrie Irving and potentially Kawhi Leonard on the way, or will this once again be another summer where Los Angeles is spurned by the big names?

How legitimate of a threat are the Clippers, who are fresh off of a competitive six-game series with the Golden State Warriors, are notably more functional top to bottom and are stocked with both a deep roster, cap space, and assets, to pry stars away from their neighbors?

Still, it wouldn’t be wise to count out the Lakers come July. They’re ready to hurl out loads of money, and in this business called the NBA, you’re in a favorable position when you’re equipped with massive amounts of it, especially when you’re in a market like Los Angeles. If they hope to rescue the team from this current state of paralysis, they need to clean up their act and push forward with competence, poise, and assuredness.

Oh, and a clear-cut leader that hasn’t left every franchise he’s touched in ruin (I’m looking at YOU Kurt Rambis), would be nice.

We’ll have to see what the fallout is from this entire affair. If it’s not pretty, the Los Angeles Lakers could be doomed further than they seem to be now, a prospect that was virtually unfathomable after signing the best player in the NBA.






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