The Lakers made sweeping changes to their front office just before the trade deadline, installing Los Angeles legend Magic Johnson as the new president of basketball operations and cutting ties with Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak. Johnson's already made his first move, trading Lou Williams to the Rockets to snag a first-round draft pick and Corey Brewer.
On Wednesday's episode of Undispited, Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe reacted to the Lakers' big changes, and Bayless explained how the Lakers missed an opportunity to give Johnson the franchise player he needs to build around.
Skip: Happy days are here again for Lakers fans
"Laker Nation, I have a message for you. Happy days are here again. Way to go, Jeanie Buss. I want to congratulate Jeanie for having the guts to do what she obviously should have done about two years ago. It took guts, and I don’t condemn her for this because it’s hard to come to grips with firing your brother from the job that the father wanted the brother to have. May he rest in peace, Dr. Buss.
But she did apologize for dragging her feet, and in the end even Magic pointed out that two years ago, he wouldn’t have been comfortable enough with his many business ventures to take on the very full-time job that is turning around the Los Angeles Lakers. So it all worked fortuitously, and I believe that Magic Johnson will slowly but surely return some ‘80s magic to this basketball team. That it will sooner than later become a contending team again under Magic Johnson."
Richard MacksonRichard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Skip: Magic will learn to thrive in this role
"I’ve got to tell you, I know Magic very well, I love Magic Johnson. Maybe to a fault, maybe I don’t have any objectivity here, but I believe in Magic Johnson. And every challenge that he has ever faced in his life, we all know he faced some big ones. He has always figured out how to overcome every challenge in his life, in business or in his personal life.
I believe in this man because nobody I’ve ever been around works harder than this man at figuring things out -- at acquiring advice from all the people he knows around this country. He will figure this job out slowly but surely.
But, that said, the last straw for Jeanie Buss became the first major blow, to me, to Magic’s new regime."
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Skip: The Lakers missed out on a franchise player
"That was the DeMarcus Cousins trade. … According to many reports, Jeanie and Magic both felt left in the dark over what happened over the weekend involving Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, now the former GM. For some reason, they decided their pride was too great in their recent first-round pick of Brandon Ingram to give him straight up for DeMarcus Cousins. Would happy days have been here now if Magic Johnson could start fresh rebuilding around DeMarcus Cousins?
I’m going to point out once again, I realize his volatility with the referees and all of the psychological issues, but a player averaging 28, 11 and five assists does not come on the market very often. In fact, the last one who did was named Wilt Chamberlain, so that’s how rare it is for a player of this magnitude to be available. And Jeanie was furious that didn’t close the deal that she wanted closed over the weekend.
So whatever fell apart, whether it was just over Brandon Ingram … what a blow to Magic Johnson. Because he was out of the loop, now he’s in the loop and all he can do is hope to try to tank his way into a top-3 lottery pick, because that’s the only way he’s going to protect his first-round pick that could go to Philadelphia … I hate it for Magic that he gets thrown into a situation in which the great Magic Johnson has to concentrate on losing games, but that’s what he has to do right now."
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Shannon: Magic will be a better executive than he was a coach
"I agree with you, I think he’ll do very, very well. Magic knows talent when he sees it. I think he’ll be better in this role than he was in his coaching role, because ex-players have a hard time coaching. Because the way they approached it, winning was the end-all, be-all. They lived, slept, they breathed - everything about them was about winning. And when players that they’re coaching don’t feel that same way, they have a problem with that.
So I believe Magic, knowing the talent, what he’s looking for. He and Luke Walton, they’ll get together. ‘OK Luke, what do we want to do? What type of player would you like to have to fit into what we already have that can get us back to being the Lakers.'"
Brad PennerBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Shannon: The NBA needs the Lakers to be competitive
"Because, Skip, at the end of the day, we love Golden State. They’ve got a nice little shiny thing going. The Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron.
But, look, there’s really only three gold-standard franchises. The Knicks, the Lakers, and the Celtics. And two of the three are going to miss the playoffs this year, probably. That’s not good for the NBA. I’m glad that Magic got this opportunity, and it seems to me ex-players make better talent evaluators than coaches. If you look at Jerry West, he’s had success. Great success. Danny Ainge, Larry Bird. And then you go to the football side, you got John Elway, Ozzie Newsome. Great Hall of Fame players that are great at evaluating players."
Brad MillsBrad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Shannon: The Lakers now have to overcome a string of bad decisions
"Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson are looking at it like ‘hold on. We had an opportunity to get DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins for Brandon Ingram - not only did you not tell me about it, you turned this deal down? You got to go.’
Because this is the way I look at it. Boogie Cousins right now is averaging 28 and 11. In order for you not to do this deal, you better believe that Brandon Ingram moving forward, at some point and time in his career, is going to be better than Boogie Cousins is right now. That’s the only way you can say ‘no, I’m not doing this deal.’
… You’ve got Julius Randle, you’ve got Larry Nance Jr. They’re really the same guy. And then these contracts, Luol Deng. Luol Deng hasn’t been good since he was in Chicago, and you give him a big deal. And then Mozgov?"