On Tuesday, Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss announced massive changes to the front office, including the firing of Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and the demotion of Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss.
Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who was named as a special advisor to the president at the start of the month, has quickly ascended to the title of President of Basketball Operations. Apparently, Johnson is now running the basketball arm of the Lakers and solely reporting to Lakers president Jeanie Buss.
With the NBA trade deadline looming on Thursday, the timing of the changes is a bit curious. The Lakers suddenly no longer have a general manager. Any potential deals Kupchak had been working are now no longer active, meaning the Lakers would be far less likely to be involved in any moves.
Lou Williams had previously been heavily rumored to be on the move with the Washington Wizards linked with the scoring guard, but any trade negotiations would likely now start from scratch.
Johnson was expected to meet with Jim Buss and Kupchak on Monday and Tuesday of this week, but scheduling issues reportedly pushed Monday's meeting between the trio back.
As for that Lakers meeting with Magic-Mitch Kupchak-Jim Buss. Sounds like there was a scheduling issue today. — Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 21, 2017
Multiple sources stated that the Lakers were one of the final teams that the Sacramento Kings considered before trading away DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans over the holiday weekend, so pushing back the meeting may have made sense for Kupchak and Jim Buss in the moment.
However, the failure to land Cousins appears to have been the final act for the Kupchak-Buss front office.
Clearly, Jeanie Buss no longer wanted to wait to make a change. Johnson has consistently been one of Jim Buss' harshest critics, and so, now, the 57-year-old Hall of Fame player and accomplished businessman gets to put his money where his mouth is.
In a press release, Jeanie Buss explained her motivations: "I took these actions today to achieve one goal: Everyone associated with the Lakers will now be pulling in the same direction, the direction established by Earvin and myself. We are determined to get back to competing to win NBA championships again."
The implication of Jeanie Buss' words, of course, is that the Lakers were not all pulling in the same direction and was truly as divided a house as outsiders often reported.
Johnson's close relationship with Jeanie Buss changes that sentiment immediately and leads to a far more inclusive role for the Lakers' president, who has often shared that she had been left out of the loop on decisions as public as coaching hirings and firings.
Of course, Jim Buss remains a part-owner of the team, but his days of making basketball decisions for the Lakers appear to be over.
With regards to finding a new general manager, Jeanie Buss stated that "Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway." This implies that the Lakers planned on making these changes, and considering the timing and magnitude of the changes, fans hope this is true.
In addition to the structural changes to the Lakers' front office, Jeanie Buss also parted ways with Vice President of Public Relations John Black. Black joined the Lakers in 1991, meaning he leaves the organization after 25 years of service.
Longtime media relations manager Alison Bogli is managing all Lakers PR until the organization replaces Black. Lakers chief operating officer Tim Harris is in charge of the search to replace Black.