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Magic Johnson on Lakers’ early season success: ‘This team would not be in the position it’s in without me’

The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a very solid start this season. At 24-5 they sit at the top of the Western Conference and appear to be well on their way to snapping their current six-season playoff drought. In fact, thanks to the strong play of superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis the Lakers look like a legitimate title contender for the first time in nearly a decade. Even though he’s no longer with the franchise in an official capacity, Magic Johnson thinks that he deserves some credit for the position that the team is in. Johnson walked away from his role as president of basketball operations in April. 

“This team would not be in the position it’s in without me,” Johnson said, via the Los Angeles Times. “This was my strategy, this is what I thought we’d be in three years. I knew we were on the right track. Everybody wanted to do it their way, but I’m good with who I am … I think people respect what I’ve done for the team.”

Despite the Lakers turning things around following his departure, Johnson doesn’t have any regrets when it comes to walking away from the franchise. Though he may have handled his departure differently if he were granted a do-over. 

“No regrets, I’m not a regretful guy,” Johnson said. “The only thing I would have done different would be to sit down with Jeanie [Buss] and let her know I was leaving, sit down with LeBron [James] and let him know … Otherwise, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I still would have walked away … I haven’t talked with Jeanie about everything yet. We’ll get together and have a meeting where there’s no media. Yeah, I should have told her what I was going to do.”

The Lakers certainly appear to be trending in the right direction, but it seems to be a little early for Johnson to take a victory lap, considering the team hasn’t actually accomplished anything yet. Plus, it’s fair to question exactly how much credit Johnson does deserve for their turnaround. 

Yeah, he cleared cap space and he drafted some of the assets that were ultimately flipped for Anthony Davis. And he may have played a role in LeBron James’ decision to sign with the team. But he didn’t pick the current coach and he was also unable to get the Davis deal done while he was in the front office. It was only after Johnson had stepped down that the Lakers were able to acquire the All-Star forward. It’s also possible, likely even, that James would have still signed with the Lakers had Johnson not been involved. So while Johnson’s place in Lakers’ lore is set in stone, how much credit he deserves for the position that the team is in moving forward is debatable. 

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