The Lakers aren’t having a very good first five months of 2019. The best thing that’s happened to the franchise since the turn of the calendar has been vaulting up to the fourth spot in the 2019 NBA Draft during the lottery.
Otherwise, it’s been nothing short of a disaster in Los Angeles for a franchise once considered to be among the best in sports. They failed to reach the playoffs in LeBron James’ first year, dealing with a plague of injuries to key contributors and just generally playing poorly beyond that. They saw Magic Johnson shock the league when he announced prior to the last game of the season he was stepping down as president, telling the media before owner Jeanie Buss, LeBron James, or anyone else in the organization. Their attempt at hiring a head coach failed to land their top two candidates, ultimately settling on Frank Vogel — who initially was supposed to be a top assistant for Ty Lue if they hadn’t offended him with their offer.
The latter two of those came to the forefront again on Monday when the team announced Vogel at a press conference, hours after Magic Johnson joined First Take and decided to open up in stunning detail as to why he really left the Lakers. Johnson named Rob Pelinka as the one he felt had been “backstabbing” him within the organization, while rattling off other issues he had with his tenure in Los Angeles in an incredibly candid interview that surprised just about everyone, leading to the GM to answer questions about it.
Johnson had insisted the main reason he was leaving was because he wasn’t happy. He felt he was handcuffed by the position and wanted to go back to being Magic again, but on Monday he explained how there was more beyond that and peeled back the curtain on the Lakers’ organizational dysfunction. Among those this came as a shock to was apparently owner Jeanie Buss, who as Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports, had talked many times with Magic since he stepped down to ask if there was more to his resignation than what he’d let on publicly, only for him to insist it was just those things.
Buss had questioned Johnson several times in the wake of his public resignation, asking to know if there were any issues with Pelinka or anyone else in the organization. They spoke on the phone for hours. They went to a private dinner at Wally’s in Beverly Hills on May 2. Multiple Lakers sources told ESPN that each time, Johnson said nothing beyond what he’d said on April 9 — that he didn’t feel like he could be Magic in this role and wanted his freedom back.
Given the way Johnson explained how he couldn’t stand to face Jeanie and tell her first when he resigned, this isn’t a huge surprise. He clearly has a much better time offering the truth about his friends and the organization he loves in front of TV cameras as opposed to in person, and when presented with a platform like Monday he was very comfortable opening all the way up.
The Lakers now must clean up this mess that is now on top of all their other messes, and must figure out how to learn from this. As for Magic, he’ll surely continue to be Magic, for better or worse for the Lakers, and even with his destructive qualities of late for the perception of the franchise, one would expect him to be welcomed in with open arms once again whenever he wants to return to Staples.