Magic Johnson will be stepping down as Lakers president of basketball operations, he announced during an impromptu news conference on Tuesday evening before the regular-season finale. Without using names, Johnson repeatedly mentioned Buss' affinity for Walton, who was in place before Johnson got the job in February 2017, and Johnson's desire not to cause upheaval between the owner and her chosen coach.
The move not only came as a surprise to the basketball world but as a surprise to Magic Johnson's superiors - namely Jeanie Buss - as Magic made it known he didn't have the heart to tell his boss that he had quit and informed the media before her.
"Magic Johnson obviously wanted to fire Luke Walton".
On ESPN's "First Take" Wednesday morning, Stephen A. Smith reported that Johnson wanted to fire Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka before he chose to step down.
Walton told reporters in his pregame news conference that he was not anxious about his future. "Serena Williams called me a week ago and said, 'Will you mentor me and be on my advisory board?' And I said, 'Yeah, I'm going to do that'".
"I'm happy about the direction, and if the young guys mature the way we feel they can mature, I think that this team will be outstanding". This comes two years after Magic took the position, and he told the press that he made his decision because he "had more fun when I was able to be the big brother and the ambassador to everybody". "I like to be free".
Clearly blindsided by Johnson's announcement, the Lakers also issued a team statement at halftime. He signed LeBron James in free agency, but he was unable to surround him with other stars.
"It's a hard decision", Johnson said, as he began to cry. They opened with a 20-14 record, but James suffered a strained groin on December 25.
According to some, 59-year-old Johnson, who has a multitude of other business interests, was never fully committed to his executive role with the Lakers. He said both were decisions for Buss.