By: Gary M. Ayd
Since his hiring by the Lakers last week as the team's president of basketball operations, there has been a lot of talk about the ability of the Laker legend, and former minority owner to lead the front office.
Johnson who since his playing career has amassed an impressive business empire and has been a visible NBA broadcaster, will now for the first time be responsible for day-to-day basketball decisions with little no no prior experience or grooming for the job.
Many experts have been skeptical of his ability to handle his new job given the minimal success met by other first time/no experience presidents like Phil Jackson and Vlade Divac in recent years. The question is are these people right will Magic fail in his new job?
We believe we have a good feel for the answer to that question.
We believe Magic will have much greater success as the head of the Lakers than Jackson has had with the Knicks, or Divac with the Kings. There are several reasons we feel this way and here are the top-5.
1. Better Organization
The first advantage Johnson has over the others is simple, the Lakers historically have been much better run than either the Knicks or Kings. It remains to be seen if that's still the case, but from everything coming out of those close to the situation, the firing of Jim Buss is going to go a long way to getting the team back into this competitive grove. While Jeanie Buss hasn't had great success as the head of the organization, she does appears to be a much more able owner than Dolan or Ranadive, which should give Magic an edge.
2. Better Starting Point
Despite the dismal record of 19-40, the Lakers roster is much further along in it's rebuild than the Kings or Knicks. There is a lot to like about the young core of Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Deangelo Russell. Couple that with some stable veterans like Luol Deng and Nick Young and this team seems to be headed in the right direction. It will now be up to Magic and those he ultimately surrounds himself with to develop this young core and add to it to turn things around.
3. Cares More
This is not to say that Divac and Phil Jackson don't care about their jobs or teams, but Magic Johnson in many ways is the Lakers; and has been since being drafted #1 overall by the club in 1979. So other than the normal evaluation of his performance on the job, because it's with the Lakers he is in some ways not only managing the future of the franchise but also his own brand and image which is no small thing for a person of his stature. Because of this added factor Magic is likely to be much more involved and spend many more hours than Jackson or Divac have in their respective positions.
4. Understands the Town
Because of the blurred line between who Magic is and who the Lakers franchise is discussed in the last point, Magic has an intrinsic understanding of the team he is taken over that perhaps no other individual has with any other franchise in all the NBA or even sports. Because it's not simply enough with the Lakers to win, that's the baseline, but you have to win with style. This is showtime, tinseltown and hollywood style counts for as much as substance here. No one understands that better than Magic and expect this knowledge to pepper all personnel decisions he and his team make going forward.
5. Magic Does Have Some Experience
Maybe not as a team executive, but as an executive making personnel decisions, hiring, firing, recruiting, training and generally running his myriad business interests over the last 20+ years. Because of this he simply will need to apply those skills to his knowledge of basketball, the team and the city and then rely on those around him to make the numbers and metrics work relative to cap restrictions and the other rules that govern personnel maneuvering in the NBA.
What do you think? Will Magic make a good executive yes/no and why/why not? Comment below.
sFollowing Sunday night's snooze inducing all-star showcase, I won't give it the dignity of being called a game, the word got out that Demarcus "Boogie" Cousins had after ample rumors been traded. The deal would appear to be great fit for Cousins who won't even have to buy another plane ticket as he was dealt to New Orleans where Sunday's showcase was held, in a multi-player & pick bonanza.
While the details of the deal have been well covered, the potential implications for the league has been largely ignored.
Cousins going to New Orleans does not immediately make them a title contender, but what it does do is signify something much bigger and potentially much more impactful.
This trade shows that the Pelicans believe that the current trend of all guards and small-ball three point shooting free-for-alls does not have to be the blueprint for success.
By pairing the newly acquired Cousins with franchise cornerstone and fellow Kentucky Wildcat Anthony Davis, New Orleans has stated loudly and proudly that they believe size and post presence are still viable paths to NBA victories and glory.
Make no mistake, for this trade to even partially reverse the seemingly unstoppable all-in trend in the NBA toward small ball and 'pace-space' play as it's called, it will have to result in a championship, or at the very least impactful and memorable appearances in the conference finals. Anything less will not cause this change. That said, provided the Pelicans are able to keep Cousins beyond his 2018 free-agency date -- and you have to think they will or they wouldn't have made the trade, I for one find it very plausible that they will be title contenders within 3-years.
New Orleans will have work to do on their roster, no question, losing Galloway, Evans and the rookie Hield plus upcoming draft selections will have to be accounted for with future roster moves. The move leaves Jrue Holiday and Terrence Jones as the only players outside Davis and the inbound Cousins who average over 10-points per game. E'Taun Moore is close with 9.8.
In addition to complimentary firepower from the wing and guard spots, there's also the question of style. At the break New Orleans was in the top half of the league, (12) overall in 3-point attempts per game at 26.5. Yet they were only 17th in 3-point percentage. While Cousins has shown a proclivity over the last two-seasons for shooting, and making at a reasonable clip the long-ball, with the slightly quicker and more mobile Anthony Davis now playing alongside him, will Cousins be willing and able to scale back and perhaps all but eliminate his long-distance prospecting? If this experiment is to work, he will likely have to.
Then there is the question of coach Alvin Gentry who is most known for his time with the Suns and their 7-seconds or less offensive mentality of last decade. Is he willing to modify his approach and blend the talents of his two prodigious big men?
The good news for Gentry and his new-look squad is both these bigs are solid free-throw shooters and are mobile enough on the perimeter defensively to not be taken out of a game by small-ball lineups. This will allow the team to exploit the massive size and post advantages it's going to have every night it takes the floor. The troubles that plague other big-men and the teams that employ them around the league, such as Drummond in Detroit, Howard in Atlanta and Jordan in Los Angeles will not be what derails this experiment with a more classic team-building approach. Where this deal and ultimately it's ability to swing the NBA pendulum back toward the big men is in New Olreans' ability to build the right team and system around the two bigs. If they are able to complete their team and build a winning culture and system expect the approach and thus the value of big men to rise again.
While these and other stylistic, personnel and cap challenges lie ahead for New Orleans, what's clear is at least in the front office the organization has decided that a trip down NBA memory lane in terms of team construction is likely to yield positive results. Big men pairings are nothing new, however, in this day and age they are like vinyl records, everything old eventually becomes new again.
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