Since assuming front office roles, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka have expressed strong confidence that the Purple and Gold will once again become an attractive destination for superstars. They have created enough salary cap space to sign two maximum-salaried players in preparation for the upcoming free agency.
In the past months, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder emerged as the Lakers’ top targets in the free agency market. However, the Lakers aren’t the only team going after James, and George, despite being a Los Angeles native, may reportedly consider playing for another season with the Thunder. Like the past offseasons, there is a possibility that the Lakers may end up failing to acquire their targets in free agency.
According to ESPN, Magic Johnson is open to the possibility that James or George won’t sign with the Lakers this summer. However, if the same thing happens in the summer of 2019, Johnson vowed to “step down” as the Lakers president of basketball operations.
“Next summer, if nobody comes and I’m still sitting here like this, then it’s a failure. But if you judge us on one summer, that’s ridiculous. Then a lot of dudes shouldn’t be in their roles,” Johnson said. “Like I told you before I took the job and when I took the job, it’s going to be a two-summer thing for the Lakers. This summer and next summer. That’s it. If I can’t deliver I’m going to step down myself. She [team controlling owner Jeanie Buss] won’t have to fire me, I’ll step away from it, because [then] I can’t do this job.”
“Do you think I’m worried about this? I’ve played against Larry Bird in the Finals.” — Magic Johnson on Lakers free agency. https://t.co/eMLBhJV7V5— For The Win (@ForTheWin) June 26, 2018
If the Lakers can’t land a superstar this summer, Magic Johnson plans to maintain their salary cap flexibility for the following offseason. The 2019 NBA free agency will feature numerous superstars like Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, and Kemba Walker. Leonard, who is currently having a dispute with the San Antonio Spurs, has already expressed his intention to sign with the Lakers once he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said that she has “complete faith” that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka can accomplish their goal for the Lakers whether via trade or free agency. However, Buss made it clear that she wants to see a continuous growth with the team and expect them to make it to the Western Conference Playoffs next season.