NBA: Lakers regain Magic touch in major shake-up

Lakers legend Magic Johnson is tasked with bringing the glory days back to the 16-time NBA champions.
Lakers legend Magic Johnson is tasked with bringing the glory days back to the 16-time NBA champions.

Owner fires top decision-makers, appoints former stalwart to lead team out of doldrums

LOS ANGELES • Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who sparked the Los Angeles Lakers to five National Basketball Association (NBA) titles in the 1980s, was on Tuesday named president of basketball operations for the struggling team.

Lakers president and part-owner Jeanie Buss also announced the firing of general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice-president of basketball operations Jim Buss, her brother and the son of former owner Jerry Buss, who died in 2013.

"Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect," Jeanie Buss said.

"Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me.

"Our search for a new general manager to work with Earvin and coach Luke Walton is well under way and we hope to announce a new general manager in short order.

 

"Together, Earvin, Luke and our new general manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness."

Hall of Famer Johnson, 57, was part of the fabled "Showtime" line-up alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA all-time scoring leader (38,387 points).

He was part of Lakers championship squads in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988 before retiring in 1991 after being diagnosed with the HIV virus.

The Lakers returned to greatness behind superstar guard Kobe Bryant with five NBA crowns from 2000 to 2010.

Johnson said: "I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions."

Buss added that she acted so the organisation would unite behind one vision and plan for improvement going forward.

The Lakers, who last week were ranked second in Forbes' list of most valuable NBA teams at US$3 billion (S$4.26 billion), are in the midst of one of the worst on-court stretches in their history.

At 19-39 this season, they have the third-worst record in the NBA.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2017, with the headline 'Lakers regain magic touch'. Print Edition | Subscribe