Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers. The move came via an impromptu press conference before Tuesday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers -- the Lakers' final game of the season -- leading to an unprecedented vacuum for the franchise heading into their last game.on Tuesday night in the middle of the penultimate night of the league's regular season as the president of basketball operations of the
Johnson has had his ups and downs with the Lakers this year, but he clarified that he's making this move because he feels the team is moving in the proper direction. Whether or not that's true remains to be seen, but the abrupt resignation is honestly the perfect exclamation point to what's been a wild ride for the Lakers this year.
Johnson's full interview is one for the ages:
Magic Johnson shocks - well, everyone - and announces he’s stepping down as president of the Lakers. Says he’s not yet spoken to Jeanie Buss to tell her. Says he’s sick of tampering rules, he’s tired of the “backstabbing” & says he didn’t want to disappoint Jeanie by firing Luke. pic.twitter.com/m50VKQmmDR— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) April 10, 2019
It goes without saying that there's a lot to parse through here, especially as the future of this particular Lakers team is completely up in the air now. Here are some of the key takeaways from Magic Johnson's unexpected resignation as Lakers president:
Magic made announcement without telling Jeanie Buss
Johnson added a middleman (NBA media) to his resignation, by ultimately holding a press conference before the Lakers game without informing Lakers owner Jeanie Buss first. "Her and I have such an amazing relationship, and she gave me full power to do what I wanted to do," Johnson said. When he was asked if he'd told Buss, he responded by saying "No, I haven't. I couldn't. I could not stand to tell her. But the one thing she had in me was somebody she could trust and [was] loyal to her. And I will be that as well ... We've been talking about next year and I've been sitting there saying 'I'm not gonna be here.'"
Buss, to her credit, took the resignation in stride, tweeting that she "loved working side by side" with Johnson.
Despite Buss' gracious tweet, she now has a huge position to fill moving into an incredibly important offseason for the Lakers. -- Kevin Skiver
Restrictions factored heavily into Magic's decision
One thing that was apparent as Johnson spoke was that a big part of this decision was ultimately having the freedom to say what he wants to say, and when he wants to say it. Johnson became notorious for his constant tampering (or apparent subliminal tampering), and got the Lakers fined $500,000 for Paul George comments he made in 2017, and $50,000 for his Giannis Antetokounmpo comments made in 2018. Johnson was also under fire for Ben Simmons comments that ultimately didn't come to anything, but the damage was done.
"I think I had more fun when I was able to be the big brother and the ambassador to everybody," Johnson said. "I thought about Dwyane Wade retiring tomorrow and I can't even tweet it out or can't be there ... And when Ben Simmons called, we went through the proper channels and they made me look like the bad guy in that situation, but I didn't do anything wrong ... I was thinking about all those times, all the guys who want me to mentor them or be a part of their lives and I can't even do that."
Johnson added that with the "fines and the tampering, I can't help young men who want me to help them," adding that the "backstabbing" and "whispering" also played into it.
While that's a lot to unpack, in reality Johnson just wants to be free to praise and mentor players. He mentioned Twitter a few times, something people naturally laughed at, but Johnson clearly never really grasped what tampering was from his position, and he was sick of having to tweet on eggshells. -- Skiver
Magic gave LeBron no indication he was resigning
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Magic Johnson had recently met with LeBron James, James' agent Rich Paul, and general manager Rob Pelinka to talk about the direction of the franchise. However, during that meeting, Johnson gave no indication that he was about to resign as the Lakers' president of basketball operations.
When James decided to sign with the Lakers last summer, he had a face-to-face meeting with Johnson in order to help make his final decision. James obviously trusted Magic a great deal because he ended up signing with the team.
Now where does that leave James in the wake of Johnson leaving?
While it's unknown what James plans to do in the future, it's not crazy to think that he could want to go elsewhere. A lot of that could depend on what Jeanie Buss decides to do in terms of the direction of the franchise. Walton's future is very uncertain. Perhaps the Lakers would consider bringing former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue to Los Angeles and that might entice James to completely buy in. -- Chris Bengel
Luke Walton outlasted Magic Johnson
This is one of the craziest upsets we've seen in some time. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that Johnson had been granted permission to fire Walton by Buss, and Johnson reportedly hadn't spoken to Walton in weeks, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. It was a perfect storm of dysfunction, and although Magic didn't say it outright, he hinted that he would have had to fire Walton.
"Tomorrow, I'd have to affect somebody's livelihood and life," Johnson said. "I thought about that and said, 'That's not fun for me. That's not who I am.'"
Walton's future with the Lakers is now in flux after Magic's departure, and that situation will have to unfold as the Lakers look toward the offseason and who will take over for Johnson. There have been whispers about Walton's status with the team since the deadline, so him outlasting Johnson is an M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist to this utterly insane Lakers season. -- Skiver
Magic salutes 'grown up' Lakers castoff on making playoffs
One of the biggest blunders during Johnson's tenure was how quickly the team gave up on now-All-Star point guard D'Angelo Russell. During the 2017 NBA Draft, Russell was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez and the draft rights to Kyle Kuzma. Obviously, Kuzma has blossomed into a very talented young player for the Lakers, but Russell is wrapping up a career year with the Nets.
During Johnson's lengthy press conference, he spoke about Russell and categorized the former lottery pick as "immature" during his time with Los Angeles.
"Congratulations to him [on making the playoffs]. I couldn't even say that, but now I can say it. We saw D'Angelo mature. He wasn't mature like he is now. He always had the talent to score, but he was immature. Now, he has grown up."
Upon arriving to the Nets, Russell only had two seasons of NBA experience under his belt, which isn't a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. The Lakers chose to select Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, which they obviously wouldn't have done if they believed in Russell's ability.
Now if Johnson wouldn't have moved Russell, the Lakers could currently be working with a core group centered around LeBron James, Brandon Ingram and Russell. -- Bengel