Lakers "Paralyzed" After Magic Johnson's Surprise Resignation
Magic Johnson last night stepped down as the Lakers' president of basketball operations "without any warning, and almost as little planning," according to a front-page piece by Tania Ganguli of the L.A. TIMES. Johnson, who held a press conference ahead of the Lakers' season finale, attributed his decision to "several factors." He said that he "didn't want to have to ask" Lakers CEO & Controlling Owner Jeanie Buss to fire coach Luke Walton. He also said that he was "tired of the 'backstabbing and the whispering' but never explained exactly what he meant." He added that he was "tired of not being able to talk to players on other teams and mentor them without the specter of tampering." No one within the Lakers "saw the end coming." As word spread through the organization and the NBA, several people "wondered whether Johnson's departure was related to a yet-to-be-published article by ESPN that is said to address allegations about Johnson's conduct with employees." But Johnson said, "That story is wrong" (L.A. TIMES, 4/10). In N.Y., Scott Cacciola writes Johnson's impromptu press conference was a "surreal scene as he fielded questions for nearly 45 minutes after he made his announcement, appearing to hold back tears at times" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/10).
CAUGHT OFF GUARD: ESPN.com's Youngmisuk & McMenamin cited sources as saying that Buss, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, Senior VP/Finance & CFO Joseph McCormack, President of Business Operations & COO Tim Harris and Exec Dir of Special Projects Linda Rambis "huddled together in an all-hands-on-deck meeting" following Johnson's announcement. A team source said that the Lakers are "currently 'paralyzed' by the news" (ESPN.com, 4/9). Johnson said that he had "not spoken" to Buss, Pelinka, Walton or LeBron James before deciding yesterday morning that he would step down. In California, Kyle Goon in a front-page piece notes Buss "did not attend" last night's game (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/10). Johnson said that he "made the decision because of his relationship" with Buss. He added, "I want to always preserve our relationship with her and I think I had more fun when I was able to be the big brother and ambassador" (USA TODAY, 4/10).
NOT WHAT IT'S CRACKED UP TO BE: The REGISTER's Goon notes Johnson talked about his role with the Lakers, "one of the most prestigious positions in the NBA, like a cell." He "couldn’t talk to the people he wanted to talk to." He "couldn’t say the things he wanted to say without the NBA reading over his comments for possible fines." When he had to "watch the NBA as an executive, he would’ve rather been watching as a fan." Johnson: "I want to go back to having fun. I want to go back to being who I was before taking on this job" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/10). Johnson said, "I thought about Dwyane Wade retiring and I can't even tweet it out -- I can't be there" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/10). ESPN's Mike Golic Jr. said, "Magic didn't get to be friends with all the players around the league and be the guy that everybody likes. Everybody loved Magic before he came here. ... He's been that guy for so long" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 4/10). In Boston, Gary Washburn writes, "It’s a bizarre move for Johnson, but one that seems fitting." He "doesn’t want to spend hours in a stuffy, dark office evaluating draft prospects or trying to convince men young enough to be his grandsons to play for the Lakers" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/10). YAHOO SPORTS' Vincent Goodwill wrote, "Perhaps being Magic was more important than anything else. Even more important than the brand that helped make him magical" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/9). FS1's Cris Carter said the job was "more work than he anticipated, and also he's not as successful as he thought" he would be ("First Things First," FS1, 4/10).
TOUGH GIG: ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne wrote, "Being president of basketball operations for the Lakers is hard. Really, really hard. And Magic Johnson never figured out how to be Magic Johnson in that role" (ESPN.com, 4/9). ESPN's Brian Windhorst: "It says how difficult it is to be general manager or president of any team, much less the Lakers, where you are under immense scrutiny and pressure" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 4/10). THE ATHLETIC's Bill Oram writes Johnson certainly "spruced up the curb appeal of the old fixer upper." His charisma was a "much-needed shot in the arm." However, when it "came to the function of the job itself, Johnson came in cold." The position "requires a seasoned executive" (THEATHLETIC.com, 4/10). In California, Mark Whicker writes Johnson sounded like he "didn’t want to make the tough calls that he always has to make in his businesses" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/10). Also in California, Mark Heisler writes Johnson "wasn't cut out to run the Lakers." The Lakers have now "found out they can't be run by celebrity" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/10). ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said Johnson "largely didn't do the job," and he "wasn't around much." Johnson "did not treat it with the respect that it demands." It is a "full-time, 365-days-a-year job and Magic treated it like it was one of his several entities" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 4/10).
HEAD IN THE CLOUDS: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes under the header, "Magic Johnson Was Never All In, So Now He's All Gone." Johnson's departure is as "stunning as any trick he pulled in more than two years as Lakers president of basketball operations." Johnson was "always too distracted for the gig" (L.A. TIMES, 4/10). THE ATHLETIC's Sam Amick writes, "What an embarrassment." There is "no other way to describe Johnson’s choice here, this move that will cost the Lakers so dearly after these past two years of brand rebuilding" (THEATHLETIC.com, 4/10). SI.com's Chris Mannix wrote, "Handed the keys to the NBA’s marquee franchise, Johnson tossed them back on the table; empowered by the Lakers to make difficult basketball decisions, Johnson quit rather than butt heads with the owner" (SI.com, 4/9).