Not that anyone asked but I’ve always had a crush on Jeanie Buss. (Who interestingly enough, was born in Santa Monica.) The President of the Lakers is beautiful (in 1995 appeared in Playboy); intelligent (graduated from USC with honors); and exceptionally rich. If the Clippers sold for $2 billion the Lakers could be worth double. (FYI, in Playboy, Jeanie’s boobs were covered, fittingly, by basketballs.)
It’s obvious Jeanie reads Snide World. I say that because last Sunday I recommended that she put Earvin “Magic” Johnson in charge of basketball operations and on Tuesday she did it. (Before you send email, I’m joking.)
For Laker fans, the announcement about Magic was greeted with joy and relief. Joy because it rekindled the hope that the Lakers would soon return to the glory days when they competed for championships. Or at least where they were relevant again. Relief, because Jim Buss was canned as head honcho of basketball operations and returned to just owner status. (“Just?” He’s worth north of $500 million!)
But, after the celebration at the news of Magic’s ascension reality set in. As Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times put it in a headline, “Can The Greatest Laker Save the Worst Lakers Ever?”
Before Magic left to go on the road with the Lakers to Oklahoma City, he did pull off one trade, involving Lou Williams but it was met with mixed reactions. Williams was the Lakers’ leading scorer, and a candidate for his second “6th Man of the Year” Award in three years. He’s also the leading highest scorers in the 4th quarter in the entire NBA. He was sent to the Houston Rockets, which will hopefully be good for Lou. He’s going to a playoff team and may wind up being a crucial piece to a possible deep run in the playoff’s
In return for Williams, the Lakers received Corey Brewer, a two-time NCAA Champion with the University of Florida and Most Outstanding Player of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. A 10 year NBA vet, Brewer, 6’9”, has been with 5 other NBA teams before the Lakers. His career gives meaning to the term “well traveled.” Along with Brewer, however, Houston sent the Lakers their 1st round draft choice. (Currently #27 in next year’s draft.)
The “much hoped for but little chance” deal of somehow getting Paul George from the Indiana Pacers did not happen. Reportedly Magic discussed the possibility with Larry Bird, the Pacers GM but it didn’t go past preliminary stages. Bird and Magic’s rivalry goes back to the 1979 NCAA Championship and extended for more than a decade in the NBA. Now it appears to be extending to their respective front offices. At their age, maybe they’ll make an orthopedic tennis shoe commercial.
George, a Southern California native, has expressed interest in joining the Lakers, and clearly L.A. Has interest in him. But Magic is not interested in trading any of the Lakers’ young talent, so a swap seems impossible.
Somewhat lost in Magic’s new position is the sadness experienced by current Lakers at the sudden departure of Mitch Kupchak who spent 36 years with L.A. going back to his days as a player. He was GM for 17 years. Each Laker was signed by Kupchak, as was Coach Luke Walton. But clearly a change was overdue. In fact, Jeanie apologized to Laker fans that, because the decision was so emotionally difficult (firing her brother) she had “probably waited too long.”
The “good news” is Magic appears incredibly enthusiastic and that has always yielded great things for the Lakers. The “bad news” is, it’s going to be a long road. That said, if, and it’s a huge if, the Lakers could entice Long Beach native and former UCLA, Bruin Russell, Westbrook, who can opt out of his contract at the end of the current season, the long road would be infinitely shorter.
Complicating a possible Westbrook deal, or for another star, is the Designated Player Exemption of the CBA. Don’t ask me to explain it, but this new rule allows elite players, who are still with the team that drafted them, to be paid beaucoup bucks (as in $200 million) to stay by their current team. That’s why among Magic’s immediate duties is to become thoroughly versed on the vast complexities of the CBA.
My “immediate” hope for the Lakers is that they lose enough of the remaining games to hold on to their own 1st round draft choice. This “negative rooting” is an unfamiliar and unpleasant experience. Hopefully Magic’s charm, basketball intelligence and inter-personal persuasiveness with free agents will have the Lakers back in the playoffs sooner than later. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. (Explaining any typos.) Meanwhile, and for old time’s sake, I’m wondering what I did with that Playboy Magazine that featured Jeanie.
Jack Neworth also writes “Laughing Matters,” which appears every Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.