Magic has left the building

Magic has left the building

Nobody knew. Magic was chatting to reporters in the tunnel before the game, called them all up and started talking. He finished about 45 minutes later, and people were still unsure of what just happened. Magic resigned from his position at the Los Angeles Lakers. 

What Magic told us

To sum it up, Magic decided to leave the Lakers because he realized he wasn’t happy doing the job. “I’m a free bird, and I’ve been handcuffed, and I don’t like that.” Here are the most important parts:

  • Tweeting – Magic missed being able to tweet how great players are, today he mentioned not being able to tweet about Wade made him feel bad
  • Tampering – this one was connected to the tweeting, but more in general, not being able to talk about basketball, in general, the way he used to
  • AD trade – “had nothing to do with it (the resignation),” but he did repeat his point that the young players need to be professional and move on
  • Luke Walton – Magic didn’t like that as president you sometimes have to have tough talks and decisions to make about people that you work with. He avoided the answer does he think Walton should remain the Lakers coach
  • Community work – he would tell LeBron that his community work is what drives him and that is what he wants to get back to
  • Not telling Jeannie Buss – Magic called Jeanie his sister several times, spoke on how much she means to him and that he knows she would’ve tried to convince him to stay, so he decided to do it like this

Should we take these seriously?

Before we go point-by-point, all of the rules and expectations of the job were transparent to Magic before he took the job. Everyone says you can’t grasp how much work it is, but the rules of the game are quite clear.

  • Tweeting – are we gonna take this one seriously? He felt like tweeting?
  • Tampering – most of the league tampers, they don’t do it on Jimmy Kimmel. The fine he got for saying Giannis is a fantastic player was absurd, and maybe Magic likes to be outspoken, but this can’t be the reason for quitting.
  • AD trade – it is entirely possible this episode was the first moment Magic realized how much other GMs and front office personnel dislike the Lakers. The failed trade is primarily on Rich Paul’s doorstep, but the Lakers didn’t do their part really well as well. Magic’s handling of the aftermath wasn’t good, with reports that players rolled their eyes while he was addressing them about being professional once it was clear there would be no trade. He lost the locker room. 
  • Luke Walton – Magic told the media he had a three-hour meeting with Jeannie the day before the resignation. Insiders report that Walton’s fate had already been sealed, but that Magic wanted to replace Pelinka as well. Saying that you’re quitting because you don’t like to fire people is childish.
  • Community work –  this was always Magic’s forte; he is an inspiration to generations and does a lot in this regard. If he just felt this was his calling, we can only wish him all the best.
  • Not telling Jeanie Buss – I was raised on the principle you are always honest and upfront with those you love, but I will allow Magic and Jeanie may have their dynamic. Still, this is deeply unprofessional. Let me put it this way; if it were any other GM, everyone would be wirting he would never work in basketball again.

The big picture

There were a lot of reactions and reports after this announcement, and before we summarize them, remember all of these have to be taken with a grain of salt.

From what we learned, the most likely scenario is that the meeting that took place on Monday, where Magic and Jeanie were discussing their vision for the Lakers, Magic realized Jeanie is still very reluctant to fire Luke Walton (reportedly a done deal), pushed for replacing Pelinka (Magic avoided supporting him when asked about Pelinka) and got pushback on that. He could’ve pushed more but that risked fracturing his relationship with Jeanie and that was a step too far for him, with the outcome not a 100% in his favor. That scenario would fit for with the non-reasons we got, as this is something you would keep private.

The other important takeaway is that by all accounts, Magic didn’t excel at the job. Both dedication and decision making seems to have been lacking. Here’s Woj on the dedication part:

Dan Le Batard supported this point of view on magic:

Magic Johnson has grown very comfortable at the business of being Magic Johnson. That doesn’t require a lot of work at this point. His pedigree allows him to carry a smile and charisma to talk shows, to any job he wants in the media, and to run the Lakers. He didn’t want to work hard enough for what that position demanded, because he’s having a lot of fun being Magic Johnson and being the head of a non-playoff team that requires architecture it’s too much of hands dirty for a legend of his stature to be dealing with anymore. 

The story also continues that there are rumors Pelinka would walk around the Lakers offices asking around for Magic, knowing he wasn’t there, just to point out that he is somewhere else. This could be the whispers and backstabbing Magic also talked about in his announcement today. 

We can’t be certain how much “whispering” is there in these reports, but it is safe to conclude Magic wasn’t prepared to dedicate himself 100% to the job, something all GM’s/Presidents of Basketball Operations agree is necessary. Magic didn’t put in the time.

A lot of times during the year respected reporters as Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst pointed out the Lakers are too concerned with the brand, and not enough with the actual work. It was aimed at Buss saying their greatest enemy this season was the media, but also it is clear that Magic was a part of that too.

If you go back to the summary, according to Magic he didn’t fail – he decided he wants to be happy. After defending this year’s roster was about toughness and experience, he now says they wanted shooters, but there were none that would accept one-year contracts. He didn’t talk about the mistakes and took responsibility; this was about him and how he feels – not his performance.

This was a job in which his smile and energy could cover up only so much. He didn’t put in the hours and decided he had enough.

The most important question that remains unanswered for now –  why do it 80 min before the last game without telling anyone, instead of a few days from now with the organization informed? 

You’ll know when we know. 

In the meantime, the Lakers need to hire a GM, keep or fire a coach and prepare for the Draft. No reason to panic.