Magic Johnson with all the subtlety, and the restraint, of a blowtorch.
Johnson likes to profess how much he loves the Los Angeles Lakers and the Buss family. Yet he managed to trash all of them, as well as himself, in an interview that was supposed to clear his reputation.
The way Johnson described it, the Lakers are both a snakepit and a circus. Rob Pelinka can’t be trusted. Tim Harris and the younger Buss brothers are butting in where they don’t belong. Jeanie Buss, whom Johnson considers like a sister, is incapable of hearing multiple opinions and then making the right decision.
Or any decision, apparently.
“It’s too many people at the table,” Johnson said Monday in an appearance on ESPN’s First Take. “… Her love for those people and respect for those people often caused us to not make the right choice. Or there’s no decision.
“You can’t run a corporation like this,” Johnson added. “You can’t have everybody think they can have a voice or opinion about the final decision. That was supposed to be me, as the president, having that final say.
Oh, he’s getting the final say, all right.
Johnson resigned as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations more than a month ago, yet he waited until the day Pelinka was to introduce the team’s new coach to explain why. Rather than an opportunity to move forward, Frank Vogel’s introduction will be an afterthought in the latest episode of the Lakers’ soap opera.
Pelinka will be peppered with questions about Johnson’s claim that he was trying to “backstab” the Hall of Famer. When he’s not being asked about that, he’ll be asked whether he, too, supported firing former coach Luke Walton, and his recollection of how that whole debacle went down.
Which won’t be awkward at all with his new coach sitting right beside him.
Pelinka’sanswers will only lead to more questions and, at some point, Jeanie Buss will have no choice but to weigh in. Which is exactly the opposite of what the Lakers need if they’re ever going to start putting the pieces of this once-proud franchise back together.
And LeBron James thought he was done with dysfunction when he left Cleveland.
That Johnson was a bad fit to run his old team was evident to pretty much everyone outside the Lakers. He was too close to the organization, and the Busses, to be effective, and the Busses were too close to him to be truly objective about whether he was doing a good job or not.
The Lakers were once the NBA’s model franchise because Jerry Buss saw the team as something bigger than basketball, a blend of Hollywood and sports. The Lakers became a cultural touchstone, an aspiration for both fans and other franchises alike.
But his children have made the team small, remaining too tethered to the past to thrive in the future. And Johnson played a role in that, too.
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There was no good to be gained in Johnson going public. Instead of reclaiming his reputation, he made himself look petty and weak. Instead of strengthening the franchise and family he so loves, he made them look inept.
There will be no winners in this feud. Johnson, Buss, Pelinka, the Lakers — they all look like losers now.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: In trying to clear air, Magic Johnson sullies himself, Los Angeles Lakers
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