The Los Angeles Lakers had such high hopes when they signed superstar LeBron James this past summer. The team's checklist of goals included returning to the playoffs, competing for an NBA Championship and perhaps most importantly, bringing the Lakers back to relevancy
None of those things happened in the 2018-19 season. Instead, the team was plagued with constant drama stirred up by pestering media headlines, bewildered by the aura of LeBron James. Between the team's incessant infatuation with acquiring Anthony Davis, to the reported dysfunction in the locker room, to issues in the front office, there was no way it could get any worse.
Magic Johnson said hold my beer to that notion, and abruptly stepped down as president of operations during an impromptu press conference on Tuesday night.
Magic Johnson has stepped down from President of Basketball Ops of the Lakers.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 10, 2019
So how does this add to the dumpster fire that was Los Angeles' 2018-19 season? Johnson admitted that he didn't even tell team owner Jeanie Buss about his decision to step down, because he was afraid to tell her face-to-face.
Lakers coaching staff fully expected to be fired in hours after the final game of the season. They had believed they were gone for months. Now? Magic quits in public, saying he's too scared to tell Jeanie Buss face-to-face. What an embarrassing episode for a historic franchise.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 10, 2019
Jeanie must be an intimidating individual if Johnson was literally too cowardly to tell her he was stepping down. After all, Johnson was a fierce competitor during his playing days, though not as much can be said about his work ethic as the Lakers' president. He was reportedly never truly committed to his role with the team, not putting in the hours that most front office members would.
Since taking over as president of the Lakers, Magic Johnson never fully committed to the job. Often he was traveling and away from the team. His office hours were limited. He didn't do a lot of scouting. Running an NBA team takes a tremendous commitment of time and energy.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 10, 2019
It doesn't end there, because Johnson met with LeBron and his agent, Rich Paul, this past Saturday, and never mentioned his plans of leaving the franchise.
Even James was clueless about Johnson's decision to make a break for the exit.
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka visited with LeBron James and agent Rich Paul on Saturday, league sources tell ESPN. Johnson offered no indication that he was on the brink of bailing on the Lakers, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 10, 2019
Magic didn't exactly soften the blow for the Lakers. During his press conference, he brought up that he could've been an owner of the Golden State Warriors or the Detroit Pistons. Hell, he even said he had the chance to run the New York Knicks.
But he didn't because "[he's] a Laker." I'm sure the fan base is really appreciative, Magic.
Magic just said he could’ve been in ownership with the Warriors and the Pistons and that he had a chance to run the Knicks.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 10, 2019
“But I’m a Laker.”
A true case of should've, would've, could've.
There was no way things could possibly get any worse for the Lakers. Luke Walton's coaching staff knew they were as good as gone, but they somehow, miraculously survived longer than Johnson. Players' futures with the team remain cloudy at best, those that survived the trade deadline that is.
Now, the team president stepped down in a spur of the moment decision, leaving everyone associated with the Lakers stunned and befuddled.
Luke Walton has two years left on his contract, but only next season is guaranteed, per source. Lakers hold option on 2020-21 season. Johnson planned to fire him, but stumbled into his own resignation on the way. Somehow, Walton survived Magic Johnson. He didn't see that coming.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 10, 2019
The LeBron James era in Hollywood has been nowhere near as successful as his years with the Cleveland Cavaliers. How can the Lakers take their place back in the league's most prestigious franchises?
Those years are gone, and the Lakers have become as much of a dysfunctional franchise as the Knicks, and nobody thought that was possible. But yet, here we are.