The impromptu press conference by Magic Johnson before the last game of the Los Angeles Lakers season on Tuesday was another appropriate event for an organization consumed with its own narrative. The biggest smile in basketball was retiring from his position as team president because the work was not fun. Millions of fans would list "directing my favorite team" as the concert of their dreams, but the general badessment of Magic's role is correct. Serving as a senior basketball executive for an NBA team is hard work.
For every recruitment of LeBron James, there are a dozen uninspiring tasks, from simple transactions to building systems in a main office. You can not celebrate the success of a transcendent talent in the sport with which you love as much as a tweet without violating some arcane statute of the collective bargaining agreement. When Serena Williams calls, it comes down to saying, "Wait, I have the NBA attorneys general on the line." Then there is the large volume of information management, personnel management, you even have to manage your general manager. In the end, Magic logically reasoned that he preferred to be a tycoon rather than a hostage.
He was so overwhelmed by the prospect of breaking the news to owner Jeanie Buss that she decided to give up her entire conversation individually and instead devote herself to the media gathered at the Staples Center. Buss and the rest of the Lakers' principles learned that Johnson quit when everyone else did. Johnson's farewell speech, in which he said he preferred to be an older brother, was further evidence that the family should not always work together. If an employee is so paralyzed by torment at the idea of compromising a professional relationship with a personal choice, it is likely that they have hired him from the beginning for the wrong reasons.
Although not the most dignified game, Johnson's resignation gives Buss the opportunity to correct the worst instincts of his franchise: his lazy fixation on the legacy in an era in which experience wins.
Before putting together a list of possible replacements, Buss must audit his franchise, which has lost more games than any other NBA team in the last six seasons. She should catalog her recent successes and failures, and determine her short and long-term goals. But it's time to look out: identify a handful of rival NBA organizations you admire and discover how they do their job.
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While there is no love lost for the Lakers' front office, Buss brings a good deal of goodwill to the entire league. Unlike some of his brothers and sistren of the big market, Buss has recognized the difficult situation of the small market franchise as central to the central mission of the NBA. His noble obligation has conveyed that what is good for the NBA is good for the Lakers, and it is a feeling that has not been lost among his fellow owners and executives.
Whether it's the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Boston Celtics, Buss should study the anatomy of these organizations and the philosophies at work. Why have they been successful from a basketball and leadership perspective for a sustained period of time? How are decisions made and how did these systems and processes originate? How have the Celtics avoided the parochial thinking that has plagued the Lakers even though they installed a legend of the franchise as their main leader and remain dedicated to their past?
If history serves as a guide, and usually for the Lakers, Buss will be tempted to look within the Lakers' family to fill the leadership gap. She could continue to rely on Rob Pelinka, Kobe Bryant's agent and Laker confidant for a long time who has served as general manager for the past two years.
Or she could end this recursive cycle now. While the Lakers have been behaving like an island tribe that grants power and membership only to those with bloodlines, the rest of the NBA has produced a generation of dynamic administrative talent with diverse skills, life experiences and sensitivities. It's a peculiar irony that the only NBA franchise that can make a legitimate pitch to almost anyone has never taken advantage of this vast mental confidence. It has never occurred to this mbadive global brand that sometimes the best leaders of an entity at any given moment will come from other places and traditions. It is okay to hire outsiders because building trust with strangers is an important business skill. It could even be good for business.
There are few top executives in the NBA who will not listen to the Lakers. If Buss wants to take the temperature of R.C. Buford (San Antonio), Bob Myers (Golden State), Sam Presti (OKC), Masai Ujiri (Toronto), Neil Olshey (Portland) or David Griffin (former general manager of Cleveland), have the ability to do so. It is unlikely that the Lakers' work will be attractive to everyone. For example, no organization reflects its chief executive more than Thunder, which reflects Presti, and that is not something that can be replicated in Los Angeles. Buford has little to gain by starting anew with an organization that is a decade behind schedule.
Myers has presided over the most prolific dynasty of a generation with an easy touch, although there is no certainty that his current employer allows him to be attracted to a rival. Griffin has built a championship around LeBron James, which is probably Buss' aspiration. Ujiri and Olshey dominate every facet of basketball operations, from exploration to relationships with owners, they have skills to both send messages and listen, they understand the whole company and have achieved consistency in the wind markets against.
These are just six high profile names, but throughout the league, from Salt Lake to Brooklyn, the creative offices are flourishing. The Clippers could be a source of ridicule in Buss & # 39; email correspondence with his courtiers, but if the Lakers' basketball operations department reflected the Clippers on opening night in 2019, Buss would be in a very strong position. They would be well equipped to deal with the multitude of decisions facing this franchise, from recruiting talent this summer, to handling a disturbing situation with Brandon Ingram's health, and, more generally, identifying which of the many routes available for the Lakers. It is the correct one
Hiring an external candidate who has been successful elsewhere is relatively simple, but empowering the person to install a value structure that could go against how you understand the Lakers should run, how the Lakers should do it. forever been executed – it will be a challenge for Buss inclinations. The way it was done with Showtime or Kobe, or how it should be done to someone who feels like a family, is not a criteria for 2020.
The Lakers season is over. Whats Next?
Whether it's one of those big names, or any of the lesser-known young thought leaders in the main office who would be an upgrade, this guy will set up protocols for tasks like free agent recruitment, hiring standards, player development, the aggregation of information and other mundane things that those who know the operation of the Lakers say have been done on an ad hoc basis for too long. Idle vagaries or impressions of how a story will be interpreted in the media will not be taken into account in those systems, and the property should be completely comfortable with that.
Then there is the matter of LeBron James, who has a huge gravity as the greatest force in the sport since Michael Jordan. His well-being and performance dictate the team's mood and success, but Buss must allow any new leading basketball executive to operate under the belief that LeBron, which is very important, is temporary in a way that the Lakers do not. are. If Buss decides that his main goal is to set up the franchise for sustained success five, 10, 15 years down the road instead of a 2020 or 2021 title, a thoughtful central office might conclude that keeping James makes it harder to get that goal. If you are uncomfortable with the ability to change James (who can choose not to participate in the summer of 2021) at any time, that is information that needs to be clarified before you grant power to that main office.
During the great drama of Magic's game, the Lakers discreetly dismissed their head coach, Marco Núñez, on Wednesday. Núñez could have been ill-prepared for the job or he could be a medical genius who got a raw deal. As the Lakers consider whether or how they want to redo their main office, here are some questions to ask internally about the dismissal of Nunez that could help inform that general effort:
What was the process that inserted him into that role to begin with? How did you measure your talents and potential? What monitoring system did you use in real time to evaluate your medical practices, diagnoses, the rehabilitation protocols that you installed and the programs of return to reproduction? If you think that the series of injuries that the Lakers have suffered in recent seasons are their fault, how do you know? Is it a process or result? Did you review all that information, baduming that such information exists with care when you decided to dismiss it, or was the decision a reaction to the general frustration in El Segundo about the player's health? Was this a decision you made because you now know a better way, or was it to serve the devotion to a media narrative that says injuries and not organizational failure condemned the Los Angeles Lakers 2018-19?
Finally, if the Lakers' misfortune is the result of hiring the wrong person for the job, what will he do differently next time to guarantee a different outcome?