Changing of the Guard: Lakers Move On

It’s time to Break It Down!

As the CIAA Tournament bucks the trend of sporting events that eschewed North Carolina due to the State’s insistence on adhering to the infamous HB2, and brings its crown jewel of conference competition (The CIAA Basketball Tournament) to Charlotte this week, and as the ACC season kicks off it’s last fortnight of pre-tournament hoops competition, my mind frequently contemplates basketball. The game still excites me and more often than not, I continue to lace ‘em up and play twice a week, including yesterday, and most likely tomorrow.

Most folks who know anything about my predilections and proclivities are familiar with my strong, some would say, exuberantly unyielding support for the Broncos (Fayetteville State University), the Tar Heels (University of North Carolina), and the Lakers (Los Angeles). In the light, yesterday marked the close of an era for the Lakers. Many of my fellow fans believe it’s about time, while others are convinced the change is long overdue.

Spoiler alert! Not only am I tackling something other than the recent politically-themed topics I’ve been tracking, I pledge to keep the conversation relatively brief. I understand not everyone is a sports fan in general, nor a Lakers fan in particular. I get it. This is where it’s really cool for me that it is my blog. But I digress.

So the long and short of it is this. Earvin Johnson, Magic to those who remember him as a player, returned to the Lakers franchise on February 2 to advise the owners on basketball and business. Johnson, who has long noted his interest in returning to the Lakers, if the opportunity presented itself, wasted no time in revealing his desires. He told USA Today, shortly after being hired that he wanted, “To be in charge.”

Yesterday, he was named president of basketball operations, according to a press release issued by Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ governor. In his new role, Johnson will terminate his work with ESPN, where he appeared on the show “NBA Countdown.”

Speaking about his being reunited with the only NBA team he ever played for, Johnson said:

“It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations, working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family. Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

In additional moves the team fired general manager Mitch Kupchak, and also relieved Jim Buss of his duties as executive vice president of basketball operations. Buss had said he would step down after three or four years if the Lakers were not performing at a high level. Frankly, the team has toiled in mediocrity for several years, last reaching the playoffs in 2013, the year Jerry Buss the team’s Patriarchal owner, died.

In putting yesterday’s actions into perspective, Jeanie Buss said:

“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect. Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me.

Our search for a new General Manager, to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway, and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

In addressing the issue of her brother Jim, Jeanie said:

“He is an owner of this team and we share the same goal: returning the Lakers to the level of greatness our father demanded. Our fans deserve no less.”

The Lakers are among the most storied franchises in the history of the NBA. They have won 16 NBA Titles, second to the Boston Celtics, who have won 17. As of yesterday morning their record was 18-39, next to last in the Western Conference, and almost certain to miss the playoffs, yet again.

In the 80’s the Lakers were Magic’s team. Today they have come full circle, except, Earvin is not Magic. At least not yet, he isn’t. He has never:

  • Run a team
  • Served in any personnel role
  • Acted in the capacity of a scout
  • Been a GM
  • Led a team as president
  • Drafted a player
  • Made a trade
  • Haggled with a free-agent
  • Fired a coach* (No Paul Westhead doesn’t count for the purpose of this discussion)
  • Faced Laker Nation as team management

Jeanie Buss, the Lakers, and Laker Nation must hope Magic becomes the second coming of Jerry West (7 Titles) and not Bill Russell with the Supersonics, or Elgin Baylor with the Clippers, or Willis Reed with the Nets, of Kevin McHale with the Timberwolves, or Wes Unseld with the Bullets, or Larry Bird with the Pacers, Michael Jordan with the Wizards and/or (pre-GM) Hornets. The team’s first-round pick goes to Philadelphia unless it’s in the top 3, and their 2019 pick could go to Orlando. Welcome home Earvin.

Almost certainly, the most compelling reason for turning the reins over to Johnson is because he is Magic…at least he once was, and Lakers everywhere must hope he can be again. He does still retain star power. But can he attract free agents? Will he be the difference-maker that Kobe Bryant was unable to be at the end of his stellar career, and that coach Walton will need to help him stock up on guys who can take the team to the next level, or as its known in Los Angeles, back to the pinnacle to which they are accustomed? Magic elevated the team; can Earvin do the same? We will see. Changing of the Guard: Lakers Move On!”

I’m done; holla back!

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