Magic Johnson says he will step down if Lakers can't sign star free agents

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When the Los Angeles Lakers announced that Magic Johnson would become their next president of basketball operations in February of 2017, it signaled the dawn of a new era.

The NBA legend and Hall of Famer’s message was clear from the start: the Lakers will contend for their next title sooner rather than later.

In Johnson’s first full season in his current role, the Lakers went 35-47. However, he and new general manager Rob Pelinka have already made a mark on the league. The duo was responsible for drafting Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 Draft and also selected sleepers Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart at the end of the first round.

All three are expected to be part of the team’s core moving forward.

Johnson and Pelinka also brought in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as a free agent last summer and traded for Brook Lopez and Isaiah Thomas in the hopes of adding veteran talent. 

While the core of Ball, Kuzma, Hart, Brandon Ingram and perhaps Julius Randle (restricted free agent) is one of the best young groups in the entire league, they don’t make up a squad that can compete with the top of the Western Conference.

That’s why Los Angeles has come up in trade rumors for Kawhi Leonard and in free agency rumors for LeBron James and Paul George. Regardless of who it is, Magic is committed to bringing All-Star level talent to Staples Center.

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The ultimatum

Per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, on Friday, Johnson said he will “step away” if he “can’t deliver” major free agent signings by the end of next summer.

"We don't know what people are going to decide, and we can't control that. So if guys decide not to come here, it's not a failure -- we turn to next summer,” Magic said, giving himself some wiggle room.

"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. Because if we're banking on one summer for the Lakers, we're in trouble,” he added.

"You have to give us time," Johnson continued. "... 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.”

Overall, he thinks that his experience will help him in his current role.

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"I'm Magic Johnson. I am still the same dude," he said. "I am not going to change. No pressure on me. I am going to do my job. That's what I do. I do my job. I'm excited. It's fun. I am looking forward to it. All right. Let's go. Let's keep it going.”

We will see what Los Angeles’ roster looks like when the 2018-2019 season tips off in the fall.

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