To the delight of Lakers fans everywhere, Magic Johnson is once again a part of the organization. The five-time NBA champion was named president of basketball operations Tuesday.
But as we’ve seen with Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan and other all-time greats, success on the court or sideline does not guarantee success in the front office.
“The bigger name you are, whatever capacity it is, the more eyes, and I think people try to equate the same success you had on the floor (with the success) you’ll have in a different role – and I think sometimes that’s unfair,” NBA-TV analyst Steve Smith told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “You can’t (assume that one of the greatest players) of all time (will automatically be) the greatest owner (or executive) of all time. What’s fantastic about this situation is he’s L.A. through and through as far as that city and that organization. We know the love that he’s had for this organization when he was playing for the organization, but he still is a Laker and he’s always talked about the Lakers.
“I think this hire brings them back some credibility,” Smith continued. “They had lost it. I had never thought in my basketball career that L.A. would never be a destination. It had not been for some time, and I think bringing Magic Johnson back, one, brings some credibility and a guy that can go out and talk to guys (to convince them to) at least (look) at the Lakers as a destination. But I think it also gives them a guy who, right now, can help them with some basketball decisions.”
Johnson will have his hands full in the coming months and years. The Lakers haven’t won a playoff series since 2012 and have gone 84-220 (.276) over the last three-plus seasons.
“You can have the greatest coach of all time, the greatest GM of all time and the greatest owner,” Smith said. “If you don’t have the talent and the players, you’re not going to be successful.”
Sticking in the West, Smith also weighed in on the Kings’ decision to trade DeMarcus Cousins, who, despite his behavioral issues, is one of the best players in basketball.
“They didn’t get a fair value back – and a lot of times, you don’t,” Smith said. “I’m not sure where the Sacramento Kings are going after this trade. Are they rebuilding? If they are, then you can understand that they did not want to be committed to Boogie for the money he will demand later on in his career. But on paper, player for players, it’s a huge lopsided deal in favor of the Pelicans.”