Do you believe in Magic Johnson affecting the Wizards' ongoing general manager search?
One week after Wizards owner Ted Leonsis relieved team president Ernie Grunfeld of his duties after 16 seasons, Johnson, the Lakers president, abruptly quit just over two years into his front office role without formally telling owner Jeanie Buss.
"I want to go back to having fun," Johnson told reporters during a never-ending press conference Tuesday night.
How Johnson's departure influences one of the NBA's flagship franchise's becomes the league's top water cooler topic one day before the 2018-19 season concludes.
Here's why this is notable for the Wizards.
While Washington's 30-52 campaign fell far short of stated expectations, Los Angeles was the league's biggest disappointment. The Lakers, 37-44 entering Tuesday, missed the playoffs despite the addition of four-time MVP LeBron James. Chaos reigned throughout the campaign with many speculating if not assuming head coach Luke Walton would be the primary scapegoat.
While general manager Rob Pelinka remains, its conceivable Buss ultimately chooses a fresh start following Johnson's exit. Perhaps James exerts the influence many assume he wields regularly.
This is where the Wizards and other teams hunting for a new GM – Pelicans, Timberwolves, and Suns – enter.
We can debate the merits of those opportunities based on ownership, roster construction, salary cap flexibility or simple geography. Leonsis mentioned several of these factors during the second of two press conference he held after Grunfeld's firing.
"I think Washington D.C. and our fan base is fantastic," he said. "I think our investment in infrastructure is second to none. I think people believe in our ownership group. We have the most diverse, one of the most powerful ownership groups and we're very, very focused on trying to make everything that we touch world class. And I don't think we will have any doubts that this is the best, important open job in all of sports right now."
Stacking the open Wizards job up against three franchises with zero NBA championships is one thing. The Lakers won the ring 16 times. Their legendary players, including Johnson, dwarf virtually any other franchise's all-time best. If Los Angeles sorts out its plan and sets sights on a particular candidate, all the other hopefuls could be left on the side.
David Griffin would seem like an obvious target considering he served as Cleveland's GM when the James-led Cavaliers won the 2016 championship. Griffin is one of the several reportedly to interview for the New Orleans opening. That group includes Wizards' interim GM Tommy Sheppard, who is the only stated candidate to replace Grunfeld.
Two assistant general managers – Houston's Gersson Rojas and Brooklyn's Trajan Langdon – also interviewed with New Orleans. League sources have mentioned Rojas and Langdon as possible targets for the Wizards.
Denver president Tim Connelly is arguably the most intriguing of the rumored candidates with Washington. The Baltimore native began his NBA career as an intern with the Wizards in 1996. Sources tell NBC Sports Washington that personal considerations make the idea of returning to the area attractive.
However, Connelly's work in Denver put the Nuggets in play for the two-seed in the challenging Western Conference with a roster poised for an extended favorable stretch beyond this season. Leaving that situation would seemingly be difficult.
Maybe the draw of the Baltimore-Washington corridor becomes the carrot. Perhaps the sudden changes happening around the league give Connelly more resolve to stay or opportunities worth considering.
Perhaps the Lakers stick with a front office led by Pelinka and promote help from within. Doing so would keep the GM-needy teams to the current four with the Wizards arguably the top of the pack. If Johnson's move turned all plans upside down, then another franchise enters the hunt, one that historically wins most battles.
Then again, how much Magic do the Lakers have these days? As of Tuesday night, a bit less.
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