Last week, former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson returned to the team as an adviser, but his intents are beginning to change.
Owner Jeanie Buss brought Magic on so she would have someone to get advice from, but the five-time champion is looking to take on a more grand role with this young Laker franchise. “Working to call the shots, because it only works that way,’’ said Johnson to Josh Peter of USA TODAY Sports. “Right now I’m advising. I get that. But at the end of the day, then we all got to come together and somebody’s got to say, ‘I’m making the final call,’ all right? And who’s that going to be? So, we’ll see what happens.’’’
To say one of the sport’s greatest franchises has floundered over the last couple of seasons would be an understatement. They’re 18-37 this year, putting them at 14th in the Western Conference, and they’re coming off last season’s 17-65 record. Before that, they posted a 21-win season in 2014-15 and a 27-win season the year before that.
Fortunately, the Lakers have a strong core that’s cemented with Jordan Clarkson (24), Julius Randle (22) and D’Angelo Russell (20). Larry Nance Jr. has also shown some potential over his two seasons, while sought-after rookie Brandon Ingram has struggled mightily in his first season.
“It’s going to take time and we know that,’’ said Johnson when talking about how long it’ll take for Los Angeles to return to relevancy. The Hall of Famer thinks the Lakers can become a contender in two or three more years if they make all of the right choices.
“You have to make some good decisions, you have to make sure we use the money wisely when we have it for free agents and then we’re going to draft well.’’
Not only is their core in place, but Luke Walton, the Lakers’ rookie head coach, is loved by his team and is doing about as well as he’s able to with what he has.
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Ownership is heading in the right direction bringing on Magic because the guy just knows how to win. Not only did he bring home five titles as a player, but he also has a stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. The Dodgers have posted four straight 90-win seasons with four trips to the playoffs since Johnson’s ownership team took over in 2012. His Sparks were WNBA champions for the 2016 season and were led by league MVP Nneka Ogwumike.
In addition to his winning, he was one of the most talented players ever to grace the floor, and he was voted to 12 All-Star teams, 10 All-NBA teams and was a three-time league MVP. The great Pat Riley coached him and his Showtime Lakers, so he could also give some advice to Luke Walton if needed.
Possibly Magic’s greatest achievement, though, is saving the NBA alongside his long-time rival Larry Bird.
When Johnson was coming out of Michigan State in 1979, the league was in a dangerous place. It was garnering a not-so-flattering reputation that all of its athletes were either self-centered coke heads or thugs — and the former wasn’t exactly a wrong estimation. When Johnson came in, he singlehandedly flipped how everyone viewed NBA players. He was clean-cut, funny, jovial and had a phosphorescently white smile that would’ve made Jordan Belfort do a double-take.
On top of that, he was a marvelous ballplayer and made the NBA fun to watch.
Magic fixed an entire league almost by himself, now imagine what he can do with just one franchise.
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