On Tuesday morning, LA Lakers president Jeanie Buss fired her brother and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. Earvin "Magic" Johnson took over Jim Buss' role as the head of the basketball arm of the LA Lakers, though there was one notable change. Johnson is the "President of Basketball Operations," while Jim Buss had been "Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations."
Though the difference is subtle and likely makes no difference in responsibilities, Jeanie Buss giving Johnson a stronger title than he biological brother speaks to the power she is affording the new head of Lakers' basketball.
"The phones are ringing," Johnson said on Spectrum Sportsnet when asked about Thursday's looming NBA Trade Deadline.
Johnson made it clear that he had been fielding all phone calls personally and revealed that the majority of those calls coming in expressed interest in Lou Williams.
In effect, Johnson is the acting general manager for the Lakers, along with being the newly appointed head of the basketball operations. He confirmed that the Lakers were in the mix to get DeMarcus Cousins, however.
"They didn't call me and let me know," Johnson explained that he was completely out of the loop on the Lakers' failed push to get Cousins.
News of Cousins being traded to New Orleans went public on Sunday night. By Tuesday morning, the tables had turned. Johnson is returning phone calls and calling the shots with input from the Lakers' scouting and coaching staff. Kupchak and Jim Buss are no longer involved.
With Kupchak out the door, Johnson is tasked with finding a new general manager, which is probably going to be his first major hire.
"It's not about quick. It's about finding the right person," Johnson told Spectrum Sportsnet.
In an interview with ESPNLA Radio on Tuesday, Johnson provided more insight into the timing of the G.M. job search. Johnson said, "Definitely before the end of the season, you have to have somebody in that position because we have to get ready for the upcoming draft and then Summer League and also we want to make sure that person is in place because we're going to have exit meetings with the player, as well as the players."
Johnson also laid out the criteria for the Lakers' next general manager in that same interview: "I will interview people who I think will buy into the vision that I set for this organization and also understand the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) as well as salary cap and have relationships with the league, as well as teams, player and coaches."
Thus far, NBA super agent Rob Pelinka, who was most famously Kobe Bryant's agent, has been rumored as a front runner. Johnson refused to confirm or deny interest in Pelinka when asked in his radio interview.
Pelinka has begun informing his clients of possibility of him being Lakers GM, per sources. He's widely expected to be announced soon. — Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 21, 2017
Johnson continued on the topic of the Lakers' next general manager, "That person has to be an out of the box thinker too. That's how we're going to have to build this thing. It's a new NBA today."
Over the course of his television and radio interviews, Johnson expressed confidence in Lakers coach Luke Walton being the right man for the job and also shared his trust in the Lakers' scouting department led by Ryan West. In addition, the new Lakers' president also spoke about the strengths of the various young players on the team while expressing a desire to create a more versatile roster.
On the whole, Johnson seemed to think the Lakers were moving in the right direction but failed to excuse the previous three years of awful basketball on and off the court.
Next, Johnson is set to pack his bags and head on the road with the Lakers to Oklahoma City, where the team plays on Friday. The five-time NBA Champion shared intentions of studying the team's practices and also watching players adjust during games to make better assessments of personnel.
Through all the talk, the Hall of Fame Class of 2002 point guard expressed utter joy and excitement at his new job. Johnson stated that he couldn't sleep on Monday night and stated that he had to pinch himself at one point. The new Lakers president thanked his boss, Jeanie Buss, and shared a brief history with the Lakers as a former player and former owner.
Johnson concluded, "If you could draw up your dream job, what would it be? This would be it."
Notes: Johnson stated that he would remain owner of the LA Dodgers, but his priority would be the Lakers over all his other business holdings.