By Nick Hamilton (@NickHamiltonLA)
(photo credit: LakersNation)
LOS ANGELES — Music icon Jay-Z had a song entitled “Dear Summer” off of Memphis Bleek’s album “534”, and that title reigns true for NBA legend Magic Johnson who currently serves as the President Of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers are one of the most prestigious and globally recognized franchises in all of sports. The late great Dr. Jerry Buss and Johnson successfully turned the franchise around in the early ‘80’s with Showtime, as Johnson looks to rekindle that excitement once again in 2018 with his astute general manager Rob Pelinka.
Johnson and Pelinka were brought in to change the culture of the franchise, after the Lakers missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
This is one of the biggest summers in Laker history, the team hasn’t gone after a free agent since 1996 with Shaquille O’Neal. Both Johnson and Pelinka performed a miracle by clearing enough cap space for two max players, as they overcame a barrier that was created the previous regime led by former owner Jimmy Buss.
This free agency period could define Johnson into GOAT status with the great Jerry West (who’s a consultant for the across the hall Clippers), if he’s able to pull off the right two free agents. A move that could propel this franchise to a 17th championship at some point. If he is unable to deliver, in either this off season or the 2019 off season, he’ll be considered a failure. Is there pressure on Johnson and company to deliver much like those crisp no look assist he once showcased on the court? Absolutely.
However if you ask Johnson about pressure, he may give a direct answer with that Magical smile.
With free agents like Paul George and Lebron James looming in the wings, the Lakers are serious contender to capture both free agents to along with the young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart.
Of course if James decides to sign with the purple and gold, they’ll be no shortage of players whom will play for less money just to have the opportunity to play with James. Remember the Miami Heat in 2011 and 2012 seasons, how free agents lined up around the block to play with the King? With James a few years older, expect the same atmosphere in Los Angeles this time around. Whether he openly admits it or not, logically in the back of his incredible basketball mind, Johnson made the trade last season that sent Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isiah Thomas, the Cavs first round pick, and Channing Frye with James in mind. Both Frye and Thomas had expiring contracts.
We also can’t count out the full possibility of Los Angeles attempting to untangle Kwahi Leonard from the tentacles of the San Antonio Spurs.
Saturday June 30 at 9:01PM PT, Johnson and Pelinka look to make blockbuster headlines in hopes of bringing the Lakers back to Basketball respect. Moves that would make the late Dr. Buss proud and Laker fans alike.
Get your popcorn ready because the script to this motion picture is going to be epic.