Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was reportedly “stunned” to learn that Magic Johnson stepped down as the organization’s president of basketball operations Tuesday night, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
ESPN.com cited reports from Shelburne and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
“League sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Johnson and [general manager Rob] Pelinka visited with James and his agent, Rich Paul, on Saturday. [Head coach Luke] Walton participated in exit meetings with players Wednesday, sources told Shelburne. Johnson offered no indication that he was on the brink of leaving the team, sources said. Johnson said he did not tell James about his decision to leave before making his announcement, either.”
Shelburne also reported that James “stands behind Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and the organization.”
Johnson shockingly called an impromptu press conference Tuesday to step down from his post, doing so before he even told team owner Jeanie Buss of his plans.
Rachel Nichols @Rachel__Nichols
Spoke to Magic Johnson 1-on-1 after his shocking resignation and asked him if he owed it to Jeanie Buss to have called her personally to tell her he was leaving. We also talked about why he did it and how he feels now –
Will air on @SportsCenter tonight & then in full on #TheJump https://t.co/ce0bXfhLQ4
He said he wasn’t enjoying his time in a front-office role:
Reuters Top News @Reuters
Magic Johnson resigns as Los Angeles Lakers’ team president https://t.co/eK5CcT69Xo
Johnson’s decision to step down is likely just the first domino to fall in what should be a fascinating offseason for the Lakers.
The first question concerns the future of Walton. Johnson reportedly planned to fire Walton had he remained president:
Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn
Luke Walton has two years left on his contract, but only next season is guaranteed, per source. Lakers hold option on 2020-21 season. Johnson planned to fire him, but stumbled into his own resignation on the way. Somehow, Walton survived Magic Johnson. He didn’t see that coming.
Tania Ganguli @taniaganguli
Magic Johnson steps down as Lakers president. He hasn’t said it outright but is hinting strongly that he planned to fire Luke Walton and that won’t happen now. He is getting emotional and hasn’t told Jeanie yet he says.
Chris Haynes @ChrisBHaynes
Yahoo Sources: Magic Johnson recently was granted permission to fire Luke Walton amidst contemplating resignation: https://t.co/vxLPnPWpji
The next question will be whether Pelinka stays in place as general manager or if the Lakers will go in another direction after what could only be described as a disastrous first season with James in Los Angeles.
The Lakers failed to make the playoffs, in large part because they built an ill-fitting roster around James devoid of jump shooting.
Midseason trade talks regarding Anthony Davis, which leaked publicly, also appeared to alienate many of the younger players, hurting the team’s chemistry. Injury woes throughout prevented the Lakers from keeping any positive rhythm they established earlier in the season.
The Lakers need a roster transformation and will surely pursue a second star to pair with James. Failure to do so could leave them in danger of replicating their woes from the 2018-19 campaign.
Whoever replaces Johnson will have some major decisions to make and potentially a disgruntled James to deal with if those moves don’t build a winner.