Why Magic Johnson was not built to be Lakers president, push Warriors


Why Magic Johnson was not built to be Lakers president, push Warriors

Magic Johnson likely realizes he is one of the 10 best players in NBA history, and among the five most exciting to ever play. The evidence in his favor is overwhelming.

As is the evidence that he is not equipped for the vicissitudes that come with running an entire basketball operation, such as the Los Angeles Lakers. And he surely recognized that well in advance of submitting his resignation Tuesday night.

That’s why he looked so relieved when addressing the media. Magic Johnson can get back to the very full life he already had.

“I want to go back to having fun,” Johnson said at a hastily assembled news conference at Staples Center.

Johnson’s announcement shocked the NBA world because there was nothing close to a leak; he hadn’t told his boss and close friend, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss. He hadn’t mentioned it to either of the team's general managers, Rob Pelinka (official) or LeBron James (unofficial).

Magic even stunned his own media relations staff, which he partly reorganized when hired 25 months ago, with the timing. He spoke 90 minutes before the Lakers were scheduled to tip off their season finale against the Portland Trail Blazers.

But at age 59, having spent nearly half his life coping with serious health concerns and the last quarter century running multiple businesses in his empire – his net worth is estimated to be north of $600 million – Johnson has been around long enough to have a keen sense of what’s needed to survive, much less succeed, at any executive endeavor, basketball or beyond.

All he has known is success. He’s not built to fail, won’t allow himself to fail, and he was failing spectacularly in his efforts to rebuild the Lakers into the elite franchise they’ve been for most of their 70-year existence.

Johnson didn’t so much as persuade LeBron James to join the Lakers last summer as greet the former Cavaliers superstar with a smile familiar to billions around the globe. Magic brought in a former agent, Pelinka, to be the general manager thinking the two of them, along with LeBron as the new centerpiece, would put air in the flat tires flopping beneath the Lakers.

And the three of them went out and collected a bunch of individuals with no chance on God’s green earth of becoming a solidified unit, let alone challenging the Warriors. Magic has played and seen enough hoops to know he was presiding over a disaster of a roster, with a coach that had little chance – none at all once LeBron went down with an injury against the Warriors on Christmas Day.

Remember, though, Magic did not crave this job. He didn’t embrace all the grimy details and personnel maintenance and ego massaging that comes with being a GM or a team president.

He simply was tired of seeing the Lakers as a broken franchise and thought he could fix it.

So, as something of a favor to Jeannie, Magic signed on, thinking that maybe, through sheer will and cachet and influence, he could make a difference.

Getting LeBron was the easy part. Everything after that was long hours and intense labor, inviting stress and more than a modicum of misery.

It wasn’t going to get appreciably better in the coming months. He probably would have fired coach Luke Walton, knowing that the former Warriors assistant was not the problem. Magic is perceptive enough to know that, even with money to spend, it was going to be difficult to find quality players to put around LeBron this summer.

[RELATED: Steph leaves win with mild foot sprain vs. Pelicans]

There was no play to be made, even with time on the clock. He always was the smartest player on the floor, seeing action before it developed, playing as if eyes were in the back of his head, on the soles of his shoes and perhaps on both elbows.

Wearing a suit instead of a jersey, Magic surrendered. Doing so without at least consultation with Buss was graceless, unbefitting of someone of his status.

But we know why he left. He wants to be Magic again, allowed to smile and dap players and freely discuss basketball on any level, with anyone, and he reached the point when he realized that day wasn’t coming anytime soon.

Draymond Green's mom agrees Warriors need Kevin Durant for NBA Finals

Draymond Green's mom agrees Warriors need Kevin Durant for NBA Finals

The Warriors are rolling right now. Whether it's the Splash Brothers heating up from deep, or Draymond Green doing it, the Blazers have had no answers for them in the Western Conference finals. 

And they're doing it all without Kevin Durant, the back-to-back NBA Finals MVP. 

Without Durant, the Warriors are looking like the squad that won a ring and set a NBA record with 73 regular-season wins without him. None of that matters, though. When you can have one of the greatest to ever play the game on your team, you welcome him with wide open arms. 

Draymond Green's mother, Mary Babers-Green, agrees. 

Like mother, like son. 

With Durant rehabbing a strained right calf in the Warriors' last four games, all wins, Draymond has averaged 14 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game. Don't tell him the Warriors are better without KD, though. 

“That’s idiotic,” Green said to The Athletic's Tim Kawakami Thursday after the Warriors' 114-111 win in Game 2 over the Blazers. “It’s very idiotic. I don’t think there’s one person in this locker room, one person in this organization that thinks that. And I know for damn sure that any idiot that does possibly (say) it don’t believe it.”

[RELATED: How incident with KD helped Draymond change his demeanor]

Durant will miss Game 4 on Monday. A Warriors win would give them a sweep and well over a week of rest before the NBA Finals begin on May 30.

Draymond Green shares how Warriors' video coordinator helped his leadership

Draymond Green shares how Warriors' video coordinator helped his leadership

Draymond Green went viral for all the right reasons on Saturday night.

The Warriors' do-it-all forward was all over the place in Golden State's 110-99 Game 3 win over the Trail Blazers. He scored 20 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, dished 12 assists, and swiped four steals. 

His leadership, however, stole the show. After the win, Green turned to the Warriors' video coordinator for putting him in the right mindset. 

"James Laughlin, our video coordinator, he came up to me right before the series started and he said, ‘Hey’ he said, ‘You’ve helped me a lot in growing since I’ve been here. And this series, we’re going to need our bench a lot and it’s important that you stick with them and continue to give them confidence,'" Green said. 

When Warriors backup center Jordan Bell missed a wide-open dunk, Green was right there to pick his teammate up. 

"He miss a shot tonight? Did he? I did. He did, too. It's OK. Keep it moving," Green was heard saying on the ESPN broadcast. "It's OK. You missed a shot. All of us have. Nobody's perfect."

Bell followed up the encouragement with a huge dunk two minutes later. 

"For a second, I caught myself, like, man, we could have cut that to six, and then we fouled them. Just like that, it just came upon me to stick with him [Bell] and give him some confidence, and sure enough, he had a dunk the next play and he had a block," Green said. 

"So I think that was an important moment, and it’s — you know, we always talk about the strength in numbers. That’s coming from a video coordinator. Usually, don’t get that from a video coordinator but that paid dividends for us tonight.”

[RELATED: New, focused Draymond putting his stamp on West finals]

The Warriors are getting the best version in every way possible of Green right now. He's not Steph Curry. He's not Kevin Durant. He's not Klay Thompson. But he's the catalyst that gets the train rolling, and clearly will be one of the biggest keys to the Warriors three-peating.