Do you believe in Magic? - Lakers Jeanie Buss did, and failed
Ask many long-term NBA fans to quickly name two teams, and you hear a lot of them call out the Celtics and Lakers. The Lakers seem to be relying on past fame and their so-called magical attraction for NBA stars, while the Celtics rely on a sound organization and hard work to regain superiority.
A profound point I heard on Wednesday: maybe the Lakers were never magical. As the argument goes, they won, by and large, by paying fantastic amounts. Case in point: Shaquille O’Neal left the Magic for the Lakers, largely because the Lakers could pay him so much more than he could make elsewhere.
Abbott's thinking seems to be that to revive the magic of the 1980's Lakers they simply had to bring in the guy that brought it to the team back then - Magic Johnson. It didn't work. Even bringing in Lebron James backfired. Attempting to trade for Anthony Davis was a train wreck, and Johnson's awkward, abrupt departure was an embarrassment. Here is Abbott once again:
She (Jeanie Buss) loves this team. But she is mired in a kind of thinking that caused this trouble. She has surrounded herself with a collection of people who give her the validation she so desperately seeks.
In the long view, she has to look to sell the team. It will take much deeper pockets to compete in this landscape, in that city. I don’t believe she has the temperament nor the attention span to look at things in a long-term view. Everything seems to be year to year. It’s a structural issue.
One example: a recent lawsuit exposes signals that the Buss family is feeling pressure from Steve Ballmer and his Clippers. The Clippers are already younger, better managed, across the hall, and expecting to land big free agents this summer.
So where do the Lakers look now for leadership? According to Henry Abbott, Jeannie Buss once stated the only people that could run the Lakers were Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West.
And yet there is near-religious commitment, among his children, to honor the tradition of Dr. Buss. Jeanie once said that only four people could run the Lakers: Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Phil Jackson, or Kobe Bryant. All people her dad knew. Working from an old playbook is a strange way to get ahead in an advancing league, especially now that all have, in different ways, rejected her. Jackson was once her fiance, but moved on. Bryant just told a magazine he has no interest. West works for the Clippers. Magic just quit.
So in keeping with the lyrics popularized by the Lovin' Spoonful, it seems that Jeannie DID believe in Magic - thinking that his fame and popularity would bring a revival to the LA Lakers. But it failed miserably. Now the name of the Warriors Rob Myers has popped up as a possibility for the position.
Don't look for Jeannie Buss to make the same mistake once again - bringing in a former Laker for his popularity (Magic) or an NBA senior-citizen (LeBron) who just got a year older without a significant contribution to the team. A clever basketball savant not afraid of hard work should be the target - someone in the mold of Jerry West, Danny Ainge or Rob Myers. The Laker magic may never have existed at all.
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Photo via Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images