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Magic’s departure leaves Lakers in disarray on eve of offseason

  • Nick Celario

What is going on with the LA Lakers?

Yes, it’s been another tumultuous season. And, yes, the Lakers will miss the playoffs again despite having one of the best players in the league in house — arguably the best player of this generation.

But one of the most marketable franchises in professional sports may have just sunk to new lows.

News of Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s sudden resignation after about two years as the team’s president of basketball operations on Thursday sent shockwaves through the basketball world.

And perhaps even more strange was the way it was announced.

Johnson held an impromptu press conference just prior to the Lakers’ season finale Thursday at Staples Center.

On top of that, Johnson divulged during his announcement that he didn’t inform Lakers owner Jeanie Buss or general manager Rob Pelinka that he would be stepping down.

ESPN reported Johnson leaving, though making the decision was difficult, leaves him in a happier state. Johnson said, “I want to go back to having fun. I want to go back to being who I was before taking on this job.”

It was also reported Johnson didn’t speak with Buss prior because he was afraid the Buss would have talked him out of walking away.

Then just hours it seemed after Johnson spoke to reporters about stepping down, there were reported rumors of the Lakers’ dysfunction swirling online — namely that Johnson and head coach Luke Walton hadn’t spoke in weeks, that Johnson never had put in the required work hours into the job because of his other business endeavors, and that Pelinka purposefully pointed out Johnson’s absences.

All this on the eve of a very important offseason in which the organization, now without one of the NBA’s most lauded figures, will have to convince one or two high-profile free agents to join LeBron James in LA.

Wow, that’s a lot to get your head around.

Some tough questions will have to be answered soon. Who will be the new president of basketball operations? Will Walton and Pelinka retain their positions? Should James reconsider his future in LA?

Once upon a time, it was said that the Lakers were the unquestioned team of LA and whoever was second was a distant second. And, yes, that included the Dodgers.

But now, the Lakers aren’t even the best basketball team in LA. They’ll once again be watching the postseason from home as the Clippers prepare for their first-round series against defending-champion Golden State Warriors.

It should be a very interesting offseason to follow for the purple-and-gold faithful.

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Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or ncelario@thegardenisland.com.

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