NBA

Magic Promises to ‘Step Down' if Lakers Miss Out on Free Agents Over Two Summers

"I've been in nine Finals. I've been in [an] NCAA championship. I'm Magic Johnson. I'm still the same dude"

The Los Angeles Lakers' press conference Thursday was supposed to focus on introducing two of the team's new draft picks, Moritz Wagner and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.

Instead, as dialogue around the NBA so often does, questions quickly turned to the Lakers' plans in free agency. The Lakers have been heavily linked to LeBron James and Paul George, the top two free agents on the market.

Sure enough, the biggest news to come out of the press conference had little to do with Wagner and Mykhailiuk. Instead, all eyes were on Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

Johnson repeated his common refrain that if the Lakers miss out on targets like James and George, they will turn their attention to summer 2019, when another class of star free agents will be available.

And if the Lakers can't bring in a star either this summer or next?

"If I can't deliver, I'll step down myself," Johnson told reporters. "[Lakers owner Jeanie Buss] won't have to fire me, I'll step away from it. Because then, I can't do this job."

Johnson's statement sounded eerily similar to one made in January of 2014 by then-Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss. The man who previously served as the head of basketball operations for the Lakers said that he would step down if the Lakers were not contenders in the NBA's Western Conference in three years' time.

The following three seasons produced some of the worst records in franchise history, and Buss's overtures to free agents such as James, Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge fell flat.

Buss was fired by his sister, Jeanie Buss, in February of 2017 and replaced by Johnson, who suddenly suprised reporters with a similar self-imposed deadline on Tuesday. 

However, when Johnson was asked a few minutes earlier whether he feels pressure heading into such a crucial offseason, the hall-of-fame point guard scoffed at the idea.

"No pressure on me," Johnson said. "I'm [going to] do my job. I've always done that. You know how many [NBA] Finals I've been in? So you think I'm worried about this? I played against Larry Bird in the Finals. I mean, come on, man. I've been in nine Finals. I've been in [an] NCAA championship. I'm Magic Johnson. I'm still the same dude."

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