Mitch Kupchak Out, Magic Johnson In

By John Bernardo
Feb. 21, 2017

Blood runs thicker than water. The Los Angeles Lakers made a move today, firing Mitch Kupchak and replacing Magic Johnson as their General Manager.

Jeanie Buss, President of the Los Angeles Lakers
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

What does this mean? It means Jeanie Buss, the one who's in charge of running the Lakers chose to fire Kupchak as a scapegoat. Jim Buss, (Jeanie's brother) should have been fired as well. He did lose his title as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. His role in the future is unclear.

This story tells us a few things. The Lakers are cleaning house. I don't think it was necessary. Yeah, the franchise is in bad shape. But Julius Randle (Power Forward), D'Angelo Russell (Point Guard), and Brandon Ingram (Forward) are young.   The Lakers have found a good young coach in Luke Walton. It's not like anyone was expecting them to win games. They have good young players, a good coach and a relatively bright future. Why did the Lakers decide to clean house?

The contracts given to Timofey Mozgof (Center) and Luol Deng (Forward) were awful. Clearly Jeanie was unhappy Kupchak and Jim Buss signed off on these deals. What else motivated Jeanie to take action?

Before the Boogie Cousin's trade went down, there was a rumor Boogie could've gone to the Lakers IF the Lakers included Brandon Ingram in a trade package. Theoretically the trade package was something like Cousins and Omar Casspi for Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and the 2017 Lakers First Round Pick. Maybe Jeanie felt like Kupchak should've made that deal. You know who else may have wanted that deal done? Magic Johnson.

Magic Johnson, Shot Caller
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Magic made no secret about his ambitions when he was hired by the Lakers. He said it to the public, "I want to call the shots. I'm going to study up on the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement)." Maybe Magic wanted Cousins. Maybe Magic thought they should make the deal. Maybe he has Jeanie's ear. Maybe Jeanie sees something in Magic she doesn't see in Kupchak.

But I don't see what Jeanie sees. Kupchak has an MBA from UCLA.  Sure, Kupchak made some bad deals. Mozgov and Deng were whiffs. But he's drafted well. It's not his fault guys didn't want to play with an aging, ball hogging Kobe Bryant. If Kupchak traded or let Bryant go it would be political suicide. So he was boxed in with a past his prime Kobe for years. It's not his fault Kobe demanded a max salary and then ruptured his Achilles a year later. Kupchak came into power in 2000. Since then the Lakers have won 4 championships. They were perennial playoff contenders. Kupchak acquired Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza, Ron Artest, almost got Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash and others. Did those moves all work out perfectly? No. But he gets credit for getting the guys.

He's drafted well too, including Luke Walton, Marc Gasol, Patrick Beverly (in the second round) Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram and Ivican Zubac (who looks like he's a steal for a second round pick).

Kobe Bryant as a rookie

Lastly, he was the Assistant General Manager when the Lakers traded with Charlotte to acquire Kobe Bryant when Bryant was a rookie. I know Buss hasn't done the best job as of late, but there's a number of factors out of his control which contributed to his demise.

For every man's demise there is another man (or woman) to take his place. I don't think Magic Johnson is the answer. I like Magic. I think he's great on TV. He knows more about the game than I ever will. He's got a nice smile, he's won championships, he's successfully fought off AIDS, he donates to charity, he's a living legend. But there's not one iota of evidence he's going to be a good GM. Will he be willing to travel to Europe and scout players in Latvia? Will he be willing to read the CBA cover to cover? Can he manage the salary cap?

Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I like Magic but this move reeks of desperation. Magic has been with the franchise in an executive role for what, 3 weeks? He has no front office experience. No CBA experience. He doesn't have the education most GM's have. He certainly doesn't come off as an analytics/numbers guy like Daryl Morey, Sam Hinkie, Danny Ainge, or R.C. Buford. Yes, Magic has been an incredibly successful business man. Yes, he's one of the best basketball players every. But how's that working out for Michael Jordan owning the Charlotte Hornets?

If I was the Lakers I would not have made this move. Sure Magic is ambitious I get it. I know the team isn't good. But you're in the best location in the Untied States. You have good young players. A good coach. The future is bright. You went from a bright future to a bit of uncertainty. I'm rooting for Magic. But that doesn't mean I think this is a good move. Let Magic be assistant GM, respect his input, and let his role grow within the organization over time. But this? You just obliterated a system and gave the power to one guy. Was that system a well oiled machine? No. But what you've done now? It's dangerous.

 to take his place

(or woman).