Perhaps Magic Johnson was trying to tell us something by getting out before the stink of a once-sterling franchise started to cloud his reputation.
Maybe he wanted to make his “sudden” resignation as public as possible to signal all the shenanigans happening inside the Staples Center, and if things are as bad as they appear, the Buss family should sell the team.
The basketball funk emanating from Los Angeles usually revolves around the red-headed stepchild Clippers, but for some reason, the Los Angeles Lakers feel compelled to try on the red nose and floppy wig for size.
The Lakers are burning goodwill at a rapid rate. What should have been a common-sense negotiation with Tyronn Lue turned into a painful ordeal that resulted in Lue pulling out of talks to become the franchise’s next head coach.
Team owner Jeanie Buss has been given the benefit of the doubt at every level — there was public clamor for her to save the Lakers from her brother, Jim, after years of misdirection and outdated management.
But there wasn’t much known about her aside from her business sense, her ability to charm the public, and her relationship with Phil Jackson.
The Lakers always felt like her No. 1 priority, but now she seems too preoccupied with pleasing those who haven’t put in the sweat equity of building the proud brand — a brand that requires the deftness of building both an entertaining product and a winning one.
The Lakers have failed at both for a large part of this decade.
They aren’t owned by some corporate entity, or some group looking for fame from courtside seats and TV cutaways. The Buss family and the Lakers are one and the same, and there was comfort in knowing the fans’ interests and the family’s wants were aligned.
But the favored daughter of the late Dr. Jerry Buss seems clueless in how to lead, and the reports of close confidants Linda and Kurt Rambis having so much influence are troubling.
Make no mistake: This is a mess of massive proportions, and headed into free agency, it’s the worst possible look for a franchise trying to attract star free agents and resemble a model, stable organization.
How many factions are inside Staples Center, angling for power and influence? Who knows what could happen with the Golden State Warriors this offseason? The Lakers’ opportunity to return to prominence is being wasted by the day, while the Clippers are looking like a model of consistency and professionalism.
This all feels like “The Twilight Zone” — but this episode has no end in sight.
The recent developments reek of a franchise unable to accept the terms of having a superstar like LeBron James, even at this advanced stage of his career, and doing what’s necessary to give him the best chance to win.
Offering an accomplished coach like Lue — one of five active or recently active coaches with a championship on his résumé — a three-year deal feels like micromanagement at best, disrespect at worst. Like it or not, five-year deals are standard in the topsy-turvy world of coaching. Whether the coach lives to see the end of the deal is immaterial — that’s the going rate.
And what’s worse, asking Lue to take on Rambis as an assistant, a no-no according to sources close to Lue, feels like the Lakers want their walls bugged and feared a LeBron takeover — as if Lue would allow himself to be used as a puppet.
Would that type of deal had been offered if they were trying to lure Brad Stevens from Boston, or Doc Rivers from inside their own building? Or was it the specter of James — the fear of having the outside world believe the most influential player of his time was running things — that caused them to put together such an insincere offer?
It’s no secret what having James in the building brings: Yes, he can be exhausting and pushy, passive-aggressive with his influence and immediate with his wants, but what else comes with that? Winning, even if he’s 90 percent of the player who has been a June fixture this decade.
That month is apparently long forgotten to the Lakers. The last time they played in June, James was a year from starting his streak of eight straight NBA Finals. There’s a responsibility that comes with absorbing a talent like James, one the Lakers seemed eager to accept. And there’s the greater responsibility of having stewardship of the Lakers’ brand, a franchise synonymous with winning, excellence and stars. When fans think of the glitz and glamour of the NBA, they think of the Lakers. They’ve endured from Showtime to the Lake Show to Shaq and Kobe, all in the modern basketball era.
It’s had its share of drama and dysfunction, but usually the notion of winning trumped all.
Now the Lakers appear ill-equipped to handle the undertaking and even seem a bit petty with the recent developments.
Why act small-time now? This is the same franchise that gave Kobe Bryant a two-year golden parachute to finish his career when it was clear his body could no longer produce superstar moments. While admirable, from an employee-employer relationship, the Lakers punted on competing for those two years.
Some have brought up the extreme: The Lakers trading James to a sane environment to play out his remaining years.
But given the dysfunction, the Buss family should go further: Sell the family business altogether.
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