It's no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers are in for some significant changes this offseason. Some have already occurred, as former team president Magic Johnson stepped down and former head coach Luke Walton was let go.
This was the aftermath of LeBron James' first season with the Purple and Gold.
Of course, the first year of this experiment was always going to be a trying one. It was more about finding out which young pieces worked with James and setting the table for acquisitions in the 2019 offseason.
Some of those additions could well be evaluated by James' former coach Tyronn Lue, who appears close to filling the coaching vacancy, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne:
Hiring Lue makes sense, as his working relationship with James was good, and he helped the Cleveland Cavaliers reach three consecutive NBA Finals. James is not widely considered an easy player to coach, both because of his profile and because of his personality.
"With Lue, the Lakers are not only giving LeBron a coach, they're throwing him a bone," Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote. "Lue is the LeBron Whisperer. He is the opposite of Luke Walton, and not just because LeBron actually likes him. Lue can stand up to The King, stare down The King, even sit The King, because together, for one brief moment, they were NBA kings."
Naturally, owner Jeanie Bus would love it if Los Angeles returned to being kings of the Western Conference—or at least legitimate contenders.
However, the potential hiring of Lue isn't just about his relationship with James. It's also about his knowledge of James' playing style. He knows what kind of players and schemes best complement him. With Lue on board, the Lakers may be more apt to deploy outside shooters, something that didn't happen in Johnson's and Walton's lone season with James.
This doesn't mean, however, that Johnson no longer has any ties to the franchise. While he is no longer directly involved with the decision-making process, he still has the ear of Buss. According to Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, the two recently met to discuss the coaching search.
"Even though Johnson abruptly resigned as the president of basketball operations on April 9, Buss still considers him a close confidante and values his opinion on the direction of the franchise," Ganguli and Turner wrote. "Johnson expressed his support for Lue and impressed upon Buss how difficult a feat it is to make three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, the source said."
Johnson's recommendation was only part of the equation, of course. The Lakers were also considering Monty Williams, but he decided to take the Phoenix Suns job, leaving Lue as the only serious candidate.
Moving forward, the dynamic between Lue and James will be important. The relationship between James and Johnson could also have an impact on the franchise if the latter continues to serve as an unofficial consultant. James was not particularly pleased with Johnson's surprise exit, and he said as much on his HBO show The Shop.
"Personally for me," James said (h/t the New York Post), "I came here to be a part of the Lakers organization having a conversation with Magic. So it was just weird for him to be like, 'Nah, I'm out of here.'"
Expect things to feel a little less weird for James when and if the hiring of Lue becomes official.