By Chris Bengel & Jack Maloney, CBS
With the 2018-19 regular season coming to a close, the Los Angeles Lakers front office will be undergoing some changes.
Before Tuesday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Magic Johnson spoke to the media during a press conference and announced that he would step down from his position as president of basketball operations for the Lakers. A short time later, the Lakers released a statement about Johnson’s decision. Via NBA.com/Lakers:
There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson. We are deeply grateful to Magic for all that he has done for our franchise – as a player, an ambassador and an executive.
We thank him for his work these past two years as our President of Basketball Operations and wish him, Cookie, Andre, EJ and Elisa all the best with their next steps. He will always be not only a Lakers icon, but our family.
As we begin the process of moving forward, we will work in a measured and methodical fashion to make the right moves for the future of our organization.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss — who, according to Johnson, had no idea he was planning to step down — also sent out a message on Twitter in the aftermath.
According to a report from Yahoo’s Chris Haynes, Johnson had recently been granted “permission” to fire head coach Luke Walton. The top targets for the position were Tyronn Lue, Monty Williams and Mark Jackson.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently gave Magic Johnson permission to fire coach Luke Walton at the conclusion of this season after being informed of Walton’s unwillingness to “bulk up” his coaching staff, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Former Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, Sixers assistant Monty Williams and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson were on the short list of candidates to replace Walton, with Lue and Williams being the primary targets, sources said.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Johnson “never fully committed” to being the president of basketball operations and had limited office hours running the team. Wojnarowski also added that Johnson was often away from the team and didn’t seem to want to put the time commitment in to running a front office.
During his press conference, Johnson also admitted that he enjoyed being on the “big brother” side than being in a front-office role. Johnson pointed out that he couldn’t be in Miami for Dwyane Wade’s final home game and he was made to look like the “bad guy” when Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons wanted Johnson to mentor him.
Johnson said he stepped down because the Lakers are moving in the right direction.
“If we were not, I’d probably be staying,” Johnson added.
Johnson was hired on Feb. 21, 2017, to replace Jim Buss as the team’s president of basketball operations. One of the biggest successes during his tenure with the team was landing LeBron James in free agency last summer.
It obviously figures to be quite the offseason for the Lakers with Johnson on his way out. In addition, there were constant rumors that head coach Luke Walton would be fired following the season, but Jeanie Buss hasn’t made her position clear on that topic. Regardless of what happens, it’s safe to say that the Los Angeles front office and coaching staff could look quite different when the 2019-20 season begins.