The Los Angeles Lakers, despite their loss on Tuesday night, have been the best team in the Western Conference to this point in the season. The franchise went through a lengthy rebuilding process to get to this point, and while they’ll eventually be judged by whether or not they win a championship, the early returns this year have been positive.
One such person who had a role in getting the team to this point was Magic Johnson, who served as the team’s president of basketball operations until his abrupt resignation towards the end of last season. He’s mostly kept out of the limelight in recent months, opting to continue his post-playing career as a philanthropist and a guy who loves to tweet, but in a recent interview with Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, Johnson made the claim that being competitive in 2019-20 was always part of his grand vision for the Lakers during his time in the front office.
Via Los Angeles Times:
”This team would not be in the position it’s in without me,” he says.
He talks about the trades he and Pelinka made to clear the salary cap space to sign James, notably the dealing of Timofey Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell. He talks about his recruitment of James. He talks about the players they drafted — Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart — who were included in the deal for Anthony Davis.
”This was my strategy, this is what I thought we’d be in three years,” he says. “I knew we were on the right track. Everybody wanted to do it their way, but I’m good with who I am. … I think people respect what I’ve done for the team.”
There’s certainly a hair of truth to this — Johnson helped the team land LeBron James in free agency and accrued the young talent that was eventually turned into the package that got traded for Anthony Davis. His tenure in L.A. was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, either from a basketball or a management perspective, and the logic behind building a roster around James last year that was filled with poor shooters is still baffling. But Johnson still believes he deserves some credit for getting the team to this point, and as he tells it, there are folks in L.A. who agree.