Celtics expect Magic show to be a good one in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES — As one might expect, Danny Ainge took a more modest approach when discussing the near-term effect Magic Johnson will have on the Lakers’ fortunes now that he’s been named their head of basketball operations.
But Isaiah Thomas just smiled and said, “Some superstar’s going to come here.” The Celtics’ All-Star point guard then laughed and added, “No, but I mean, it’s good. It’s good. Magic Johnson is arguably the best Laker ever, so to have him the head of all that and making decisions is a step in the right direction. Everybody respects him, and the Lakers are not going to be, I guess, what they are now forever. He’ll bring some people here.”
Johnson will need to.
The Lakers are in the process of missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, and they’ve been unable to attract key free agents. Is it actually difficult to recruit to LA?
“It’s a good organization with a great history, and they have some good, young, talented players, so I don’t think it’s that tough,” said Ainge, who holds the same position as Johnson. “It’s basketball, so I mean, it might take more than a second to turn it around and get it to where they want it, but I think it’s in good hands. I’ve always seen the Lakers as a very traditional franchise. I thought Mitch Kupchak did a really good job and before him Jerry West. They’ve won some good championships. They’ve been in a little bit of a dry spell lately, but like I said, they have some good young players, and they’re starting fresh.
“And with Magic they have a guy who’s very entertaining and very smart. He’s going to surround himself with good people. He hired Rob Pelinka (Kobe Bryant’s former rep) as his general manager, and I have a great deal of respect for him. He was fantastic in the agent world. And guys that have gone from being agents to GMs, like Bob Myers in Golden State, he was the GM of the year last year. He took the same path.”
Beyond that, Ainge just likes having Johnson back.
“I think it’s great,” Ainge said. “Magic’s been great for the game of basketball, for the NBA, and having him back in the NBA like this is wonderful. He has such charisma and such love and passion for the game of basketball and for the Los Angeles Lakers. That has to be good for the game. It’s fun. We don’t have anything to do together yet, but who knows? I told him, ‘You know, it’s OK if the Celtics and Lakers make a trade. It’s not against the rules or anything.’ I told him that his transition team was worse than Donald Trump’s. He didn’t even have a phone extension to his office yet. But I told him we can do deals together. I told him we should be friends and do deals, and he’s Donald Trump and I’m Vladimir Putin.”
What does that make Indiana Pacers leader Larry Bird and Charlotte Hornets chief Michael Jordan? And is the NBA having a major 1980s flashback with all these stars from that era running teams? And will they be able to be as successful from the front office as they were on the court?
“Listen, those guys are smart guys, and I have all the respect for them,” Ainge said. “They know the game. Their games transcend any generation. They would have been great no matter when they played. And the big thing is they really understood the game when they were playing. That translates well to now for them. I just enjoy talking to those guys. And there’s always more to talk about than just today’s game.
“You’ve always had a lot of guys who went to work in the front office and maybe even became GMs, but I think you may see more guys now getting into ownership roles as we go forward. Isn’t Grant Hill in ownership in Atlanta? You see Michael in ownership, and I wouldn’t be surprised to a lot of guys down the road in some type of ownership capacity or running teams like Magic and Larry are doing.”