Culver City Observer -

Can Magic Johnson Fix This Mess? It's Going To Be Difficult


February 16, 2017

By Mitch Chortkoff

Sports Editor

I’ve been around Magic Johnson through all the years since he came to the Lakers.

He’s been fantastic as a basketball player and then a businessman. He fought HIV a long time ago and he’s still living and accomplishing.

But if he intends to make the Lakers great again he’s got another tough battle ahead.

I have so much respect for him and I’d never say he can’t do something he wants to do.

But frankly I don’t see how he can defeat the reality that a new NBA rule will make it very hard for him to convince the NBA’s biggest stars they should join the Lakers.

The elite free agents, the players he’d like to bring here, will have to sacrifice millions to play for the Lakers. That’s the reality of the new seven-year agreement between the owners and the players association that begins with the next free agent period starting in July.

There will be a lot of money for elite free agents to remain with their current team. If they meet the criteria, like being named to first, second or third all-NBA teams they can sign a six-year contract instead of five years. An example is that Steph Curry, who makes $150 million this season, will be paid $210 next season if he stays with Golden State.

So if I’m right the Lakers will have to settle for OK free agents but not the premier ones.

I’ve been surprised to hear Johnson say the Lakers need just one star “because we have everything else.”

He reasons that one star can make everyone better.

That’s hard for me to believe because the Lakers are currently working on a third straight dismal year – the three worst in franchise history.

And even if Johnson is right he’s talking about a star – the kind of player the new rule will likely leave the Lakers out.

What’s left? A good draft choice, but that would be another rookie who’d have to adjust to NBA competition. The Lakers already have players like that – DeAngelo Russell, Juluis Randle, Jordan Clarkson.

Or perhaps a trade, sending away a young one or two – Russell, perhaps Clarkson to get a pretty good (not great) veteran.

Johnson has accepted the job as “advisor to the owner, Jeanie Buss.” But he’s already said he wants to call the shots.

So if he gets into a competition with Jim Buss or anyone else there could be trouble.

And Johnson says “I may be here for a long time or a short time. I can’t tell you yet how that will turn out.”

So, yes, like anyone who’d like the Lakers to recover from where they are now I want Johnson to succeed.

But I wish he would have joined up a couple of years ago. The new rule wasn’t in place. I have no doubt he could have convinced at least one elite free agent to join the Lakers.

But Jeanie Buss didn’t act soon enough even though there was plenty of evidence that something had to be done.

Magic now works for the Lakers but their problems are far from solved.


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