Today’s LA Lakers are far from what the team was back in Magic Johnson’s days. And the team’s former superstar and Hall of Famer Johnson wasn’t shy of expressing his thoughts on the team’s current state.
Speaking on ESPN’s First Take, Johnson blamed the Lakers’ owner/executive Jim Buss for not making the right decisions in the organization.
“[He’s] trying to do it himself, trying to prove to everybody that this was the right decision, that ‘my dad gave me the reins,’ and he’s not consulting anybody,” Johnson said.
When the Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss passed away in 2013, his son Jim Buss became the owner, as well as executive vice president of basketball operations. Apparently, Magic Johnson is not very pleased with how things are going.
“His father was smart enough to understand that, you know? ‘I can own the team, but I don’t have the basketball expertise to make those decisions, so let me bring in Jerry West,’ ” said Johnson.
West served as general manager under Jerry Buss before stepping down in 2000. General Manager Mitch Kupchak took over, helping the Lakers win four additional titles – two with the core of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant that was built by West.
Johnson didn’t appreciate the Lakers hiring coach Mike D’Antoni, but has remained supportive of his former teammate, the team’s new coach Byron Scott. Johnson also criticized Buss for not admitting the mistakes of hiring another coach Mike Brown and D’Antoni.
“Just say, ‘Hey, I made a mistake,’ ” Johnson said. “We can understand that. We can deal with that. He always put it on somebody else. Then he’s mad at me ’cause I criticize him. ‘Oh, Magic’s trying to get a job with the Lakers. Magic’s trying to bring me down.’ No I’m not. I’m telling the truth about the situation, trying to make us better, trying to get us to a winning situation, in terms of the Lakers getting back to being relevant and winning again. So you get mad at me when I tell the truth.”
Johnson added that he doesn’t have any relationship with Jim Buss.
“I like Jim as a person,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, a great CEO or a person who is in a powerful position, will surround himself or put together a team to help them achieve their goals and dreams. Jim has not done that. It’s all about him and his decision-making.”
Further speaking on Kobe Bryant, the team’s ageing star, Johnson said it wasn’t his Bryant’s fault to take the two-year, $48.5-million contract extension while recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon.
“Kobe didn’t ask for that money. This is not Kobe’s fault. Remember Jeanie and Jim brought that contract to him,” Johnson said. “That’s been the Laker way. They always say to their superstar, ‘We’re going to take care of you.'”
Meanwhile, Brian Shaw, a former teammate of Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, said Bryant might consider retiring if he is unable to fully return from the right rotator cuff surgery that has sidelined him this season.
Bryant has one year left on his contract for $25 million.
“I know how dedicated he is to the game,” Shaw said. “But I also know that if he feels like he can’t play at a level that he feels good about, then he won’t play.”
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