The Lakers’ legend self-admittedly lacked patience as he saw his beloved franchise shuffle through coaching changes and unproven rosters amid debilitating losses.
With Magic Johnson holding an advisory role for the Lakers in the past week, however, he predicted that more growing pains await.
“It’s going to take three to five years to get them back rolling again,” Johnson said in an interview on CBS This Morning that aired on Monday morning. “If we’re patient and we develop our own players, in today’s NBA it’s different than when I played. you have to develop your own players because free agent movement is not like it used to be. You have to make sure you hit a home run with the players you do draft and keep the players you have on your roster.”
Whether that means Johnson will stay patient with the Lakers’ front office remains to be seen. He has been highly critical of Lakers vice president of player personnel Jim Buss for the hirings of former coaches Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni and the free agency strikeouts in the past three seasons. Although Johnson told Spectrum SportsNet that “Jim is calling the shots,” Johnson said in a later interview with USA Today that he is “working to call the shots.”
Johnson reiterated he will be involved with matters pertaining to both the Lakers’ business and basketball operations. While he was seen with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak at last week’s UCLA-Oregon game, Lakers coach Luke Walton plans to meet with Johnson to discuss his involvement with mentoring the players.
Johnson, who said he turned down four offers to be a part of NBA ownership including the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons, also maintained he has enough time to focus on the Lakers despite his involvement with the Dodgers ownership group and his various businesses.
“At this point in my life, I can do it right now,” Johnson said. “My businesses are running smooth. I can turn them over to the executive team that I have. I have a great team.”
Johnson also shared details on how Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recruited him to her team during dinner before the Lakers hosted the Denver Nuggets last month at Staples Center.
“We’ve always had our annual dinner to talk about the status of the Lakers,” Johnson said. “Jeanie is so intelligent, so smart. I began to tell her what I think about the team, and the direction that the team was headed. I didn’t think it was a good direction.”
So Johnson asked Jeanie Buss a simple question.
“What are you going to do?” Johnson asked.
“I’m going to make some changes,” Jeanie Buss replied.
“Oh, okay. What are you going to do?” Johnson asked. “Who are you going to bring in?”
“You,” Jeanie Buss answered.
Johnson laughed as he recalled the conversation.
“I thought long and hard about it,” he said. “The only team or franchise I would ever go to is the Lakers.”