This past month, Magic Johnson, president of basketball operations, and Luke Walton, head coach, resigned from their positions with the Los Angeles Lakers organization leaving the team in complete disarray. In the past couple of seasons, the Lakers have struggled to put together a team that is capable of winning consistently in the NBA. The Lakers have been searching for answers to their problems for years, and are still struggling to address their failures. After six consecutive years of losing records, three under Luke Walton, and two under Magic Johnson, the Lakers have made little to no progress in becoming a playoff team. The Lakers’ disappointments became even more acute this season with their futility continuing even after signing one of the best basketball players in the league, LeBron James. Unfortunately for them, Lebron’s impact was not what they had hoped. With Lebron, the Lakers won twelve more games than the year prior, which you would think is a good thing… but not really.
This only took them from a terrible to bad team, and nowhere close to the powerhouse Lakers fans expected to see. In actuality, it probably hurt them because now they are not bad enough to have a good draft pick and acquire surefire future stars, but they are also not good enough to make the playoffs. Although some people believe they have the players to be a competitive playoff team, their management failed them once again. Magic Johnson and Luke Walton’s decision have left the Lakers in a dreadful position, and they won’t even be there to clean up their mess.
To make matters worse, the fans of Los Angeles teams very demanding when it comes to their clubs’ performance and achievement. This rings extremely true for the Lakers, especially given the history of sustained excellence of the Lakers prior this decade. The Lakers failing to make the playoffs is clearly not an acceptable outcome to their fan base, and people are losing patience.
“They didn’t live up to any expectations and the loss of Magic adds to the seemingly infinite number of issues we already have,” Lakers fan Caden Kundar (’22) said.
This opinion is shared by many, if not all fans, and they want change though few believe this type of organizational disarray will help the team improve.
Magic Johnson has long personified the Lakers’ history of excellence. His leadership and mentoring made the Lakers an attractive team to play for even though they were among the worst teams in the NBA for the last few seasons. Although the main reasons that star athletes come to play for the Lakers is to be part of a historic franchise and live in a beautiful city with a lot of media exposure, Magic’s presence played an important role in encouraging players to become part of the Lakers family. The most notable example of Magic’s aura at work was last summer when he signed their franchise player, LeBron James. With the exception of Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram to a degree, LeBron is the only light in the darkness that is the Los Angeles Lakers right now.
In addition to losing Magic Johnson, the Lakers also decided to move on from their coach, Luke Walton. Although Walton was not able to coach the team to the playoffs, the Lakers record greatly improved under him in comparison to former coaches Mike D’Antoni and Byron Scott. To be fair, Walton had the better team to work with on paper but he was never given the tools to put together a winning team. Asher Button (‘22), a long time Lakers fan, explained, “the team was riddled with injuries that really held us back.” These injuries prevented Luke Walton from using his adept coaching skills. The front office also didn’t provide Walton with the type of players needed to play the up-tempo, three-point shooting and defense-oriented scheme that he learned while serving as an assistant coach with the 3-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors. But despite these issues, he was pressured to leave as someone needed to be blamed for the Lakers’ lack of productivity. Many Lakers fans question the change since Walton is generally regarded as a very good coach and was snapped up by the Lakers’ division rival the Sacramento Kings, just three days after departing the Lakers.
In conclusion, the Lakers are left in an even worse place than they were in going into this past season. They lack a Head Coach and a President of Basketball Operations as they go into the crucial free agent signing period and the NBA draft. Fans question whether any superstar free agent would want to sign with the Lakers and LeBron because the organization’s lack of critical leadership and direction.