Jeanie Buss

Lakers Notes: LeBron/Buss Dinner, WCF, AD, Lineup

Near the end of a rocky first season together, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and All-Star LeBron James sat down for their first dinner together at Wally’s Beverly Hills in March 2019, alongside James’ agent Rich Paul and Lakers executive Linda Rambis. It was here that the foundation was laid for this season’s relatively drama-free Lakers run in 2019/20, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

“We’re committed to you and we’ll come out of this on top,” Paul told Buss during the dinner, according to a conversation with Shelburne. “We’ll come out of this different than what the world sees. Let the people who talk, talk. We just gotta do the work.”

Shelburne notes that forging this more personal bond helped stabilize the club.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers’ competition in the Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets, have earned the respect of Los Angeles’ marquee player, after coming back twice from 3-1 deficits in the 2020 playoffs, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN“It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit,” James said after a team practice today. “They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ball club.”
  • Lakers stars James and Anthony Davis have instilled a hardworking mindset that has proved effective this season among their teammates, per Mark Medina of USA Today. “They’ve been the rocks and heart and souls of our team all year,” power forward Kyle Kuzma said of LeBron and AD. “If we don’t do our jobs, they don’t have the success that they have.”
  • Los Angeles is ready to make lineup adjustments against the Nuggets to best handle Denver All-Star center Nikola Jokic, according to Tania Ganguli of the LA Times. Frank Vogel appeared to indicate that he’ll return to playing centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, who got minimal run during the Lakers’ more speed-oriented attack against the Rockets during the semifinals. Forward Markieff Morris, a solid three-point shooter, started at center in McGee’s stead during most of the Houston series. “In terms of how much we’ll use our centers, I don’t want to get too much into detail, but obviously we’re gonna be the L.A. Lakers, who we’ve been all year,” Vogel said. Starting center McGee is currently on the first year of a two-season, $8.2MM contract with the team, while reserve Howard is on a one-year veteran’s minimum deal.

Details On Kawhi Leonard’s Decision, Free Agent Meetings

Kawhi Leonard‘s camp spoke to the Raptors about the possibility of acquiring Paul George or Bradley Beal, Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star reports. The franchise considered the request, though Masai Ujiri & Co. began to believe in the final days leading up to Leonard’s decision that Kawhi, who was in Toronto from Wednesday to Friday, was not serious about rejoining the defending champs.

Leonard was focused on the Clippers even as his championship run with the Raptors was ongoing, Arthur writes. His camp gauged Jimmy Butler‘s interest in teaming up with him in Los Angeles throughout the postseason and the Clippers had planned to go after the pairing. Butler ended up landing in Miami and it appeared that the title and the inability to get Butler had closed the gap between the Raptors and the Southern California franchise.

The Raptors engaged in trade talks with the Thunder, though Arthur cautions that Toronto never came close to acquiring George and writes that Russell Westbrook was not involved in those discussions. It was previously reported that Westbrook and George both could have been included in a potential package to the Raptors. Westbrook was open to the idea of playing with Leonard, Arthur hears.

Here’s more buzz surrounding the Final MVP’s decision to move to California:

  • The location for the Lakers’ meeting with Leonard was switched last minute to Westlake Village and only owner Jeanie Buss and GM Rob Pelinka were there, as per Leonard’s request, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweets. Shelburne adds that Leonard met with George near that location on the same day.
  • The Lakers knew their typical pitch, promising stardom and off-court fame, would not appeal to Leonard, Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times details. The team stuck to basketball in their hotel meeting with Leonard, attempting to sell him on winning a championship with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The meeting only lasted two hours.
  • Leonard and his uncle spoke to Magic Johnson prior to the Lakers‘ meeting, Ganguli adds. They had questions about Johnson’s recent comments on Pelinka where Johnson accused the former agent of betraying him. Johnson responded with praise for the organization and spoke highly of the Lakers’ front office. Johnson’s comments were not brought up in the Lakers’ short meeting, Ganguli hears.
  • The Lakers had no idea that Leonard wanted George as a teammate, per Ganguli. It was inconsequential, as Los Angeles had no real means of acquiring him from Oklahoma City since the club had already given up so many assets in the Anthony Davis deal.

Kawhi Leonard Wants To Meet With Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson

11:30pm: Full reports from ESPN and Los Angeles Times provide more details on Leonard’s proposed meeting(s) with the Lakers, as Shelburne, Turner, and Tania Ganguli explain in those stories that Kawhi’s camp made it clear he only wants Buss and Johnson involved in his meeting with the team.

The Lakers’ owner (Buss) and former president of basketball operations (Johnson) will likely have to meet with Leonard and his camp separately, since the NBA has told Johnson that he can’t be a formal part of the free agent process, per ESPN and The Times. He still has interest in doing what he can on an informal basis to help the Lakers.

While James and Davis also plan to meet with Leonard, they might not be involved in the Lakers’ formal meeting, since Kawhi’s camp let it be known he wants that meeting to be with only Buss, rather than with multiple members of the front office, according to The Times. Additionally, ESPN’s report notes that Davis can’t act as an official representative of the Lakers, since he won’t actually become a Laker until July 6.

4:50pm: Citing league rules, Johnson said he cannot participate in the meeting nor has Buss asked him to meet with any prospective free agents, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets. A third party called Johnson and told him Leonard wanted to meet with him, Shelburne adds in another tweet.

4:24pm: Kawhi Leonard’s representatives plan to meet with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson next week when free agency begins, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The meeting will likely take place in Los Angeles, Turner adds.

A Yahoo Sports report on Thursday revealed that Leonard planned on meeting with both L.A. teams along with Raptors and this seems to firm up some of those plans.

The Lakers opened up a max $32MM salary slot for the Finals’ Most Valuable Player by agreeing to trade Moritz WagnerIsaac Bonga, and Jemerrio Jones to the Wizards as part of the Anthony Davis trade. Additionally, Davis has agreed to waive his $4MM trade kicker. The Lakers are hoping to secure Leonard or Kyrie Irving to form an imposing superstar trio with Davis and LeBron James.

James and Davis are planning to be part of the formal pitch to Leonard, Sam Amick of The Athletic tweets.

The presence of Johnson, rather than GM Rob Pelinka, at the proposed meeting is a little curious. Johnson infamously ripped Pelinka in a TV interview after resigning his post, though Johnson did praise Pelinka for pulling off the Davis trade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacific Notes: Henry, Suns, Landry, Buss

Pierria Henry, the most recent EuroCup regular season MVP winner, worked out for the Suns today, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reports (Twitter link). Henry has plans to work out for at least two additional teams over the weekend.

The 6’5″ combo guard spent four years at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, becoming the school’s all-time leader in assist and steals. Henry didn’t hear his name called in the 2015 Draft and ended up carving out a career overseas. Henry has had stops in Georgia, Germany, Israel, Turkey, and Russia.

Henry is now a candidate for an NBA roster spot next season. As the West Virginia native attempts to make it in the league, let’s take a look at some notes from the Pacific Division:

  • Coach Monty Williams has finalized his staff, as he announced on the Suns‘ podcastWillie Green, Darko Rajakovic, Mark Bryant, Randy Ayers, Larry Greer, and Steve Blake will all serve as assistant coaches in Phoenix.
  • Landry Shamet has been invited to participate with the Select Team at Team USA’s National camp, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com tweets. The Clippers guard will join Zion Williamson in the younger group come August.
  • Lakers owner Jeanie Buss admits that Magic Johnson’s resignation caught her off-guard, as Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register relays. Buss added that once the executive stepped down, she needed time to “figure out what the process was going to be.” Los Angeles decided that Rob Pelinka leading the front office would be best for the franchise.

Lakers Notes: Rondo, A. Davis, McGee, Buss

Rajon Rondo confirms to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report that the Anthony Davis trade rumors just before the February deadline had a negative effect on the Lakers. Nearly all the team’s young players heard their names in rumored offers that were leaked to the press as L.A. tried to lock up Davis before the market becomes more competitive this summer.

There were numerous stories about how the Davis saga affected the mindset in the locker room, and the Lakers weren’t nearly as competitive after the deadline passed. Although he doesn’t name names, Rondo says a few veteran players were affected as well, but he denies being one of them.

“Me, I’m kind of numb to it,” he said. “I was in trade rumors every year in Boston. Eight straight years. You can’t really relate to it until you’ve gone through it. Not knowing the future, waking up every day — and now you’re on the phone reading stuff. When I was going through it, there wasn’t so much social media; it was just on TV. You’d hear it, or someone would text you about it, but it wasn’t so much in your face, with eight different blockbuster or proposed trades and your name in every one of them. Every Instagram scroll, you’re in it. So, psychologically, it probably took a toll. …

“Guys may have felt like, ‘Oh, I need to prove myself so I won’t be traded’ or ‘They’re going to trade me anyway.’ Each game you didn’t know what the mentality was for those guys: ‘Should I give my all to this organization that is about to trade me in two days?'”

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • Rondo also believes the team splintered because it had six players on one-year contracts, including himself. After the Lakers were unable to find a second star to pair with LeBron James last summer, they rounded up veterans on short-term deals to preserve their future cap space. “If the organization doesn’t give a guy a multiyear deal, how much can that guy really invest in the team?” Rondo asked. “His thinking is: ‘You don’t really believe in me. You’re just trying to fill a void. I’m just a plug-in.’ You can say you’re playing for a contract; on mediocre teams, OK, but on championship-caliber teams, it doesn’t work that way. Guys aren’t willing to make sacrifices.”
  • JaVale McGee, another of those one-year veterans, is open to coming back to L.A. for another season, according to a tweet from the Fox show “Undisputed.” “I love L.A., it was beautiful for me,” he said. “I had my best averages, I had my best season playing alongside LeBron.”
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban defended Lakers owner Jeanie Buss this week, telling Dave McMenamin of ESPN that after her father’s death she had to balance family concerns with the pressures of running an organization.

Lakers Notes: Pelinka, Johnson, Demps, Russell

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka said Magic Johnson‘s blistering comments about him were “surprising” and “disheartening,” Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Johnson, who resigned as president of basketball operations shortly before the season ended, accused Pelinka on ESPN’s First Take of “backstabbing” him for telling people around the league he wasn’t working hard enough. Pelinka responded to the accusation during coach Frank Vogel‘s introductory press conference.

“They’re just simply not true,” Pelinka said. “I stand beside him. I stand with him as a colleague and a partner. I’ve always supported everything he’s done and will continue to.”

According to an ESPN report, Pelinka spoke to Johnson two days ago regarding the team landing the fourth pick in the draft lottery.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Pelinka confirmed that the organization will not hire a president of basketball operations to replace Johnson, according to a post from ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. Pelinka revealed that, in terms of decision-making, he consults with the basketball staff as well as senior adviser Kurt Rambis and then makes suggestions to owner Jeanie Buss.
  • Pelinka vows that the turmoil surrounding the organization won’t prevent it from building a championship team as soon as next season, ESPN’s Dave McMenanim writes. “I think if people take a look at where this franchise is right now, again we have a great coach, we have a high draft pick. We have a great young core, maybe one of the best in the league. We have a superstar on our team, and an open slot,” he said. “So I think people can look at this as an opportunity to win a championship possibly next year.”
  • Johnson blamed former Pelicans GM Dell Demps in the ESPN interview for leaking trade offers involving Anthony Davis prior to the trade deadline, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. “I told Dell Demps, ‘Let’s just do it in private. What we offer, let’s keep it between us.’ Well, Dell didn’t do that. So, that’s how it got out,” Johnson said.
  • Johnson also said during the First Take interview that his decision to trade D’Angelo Russell to the Nets was directly related to the issues he had with former Lakers guard Nick Young, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Russell pranked Young by goading his teammate into admitting that he cheated on his former fiancé, recording star Iggy Azalea. Russell posted the recording on his private Snapchat account but it became public.

Magic Johnson Talks Pelinka, Lakers, Walton, Lue

Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson didn’t hold back during an appearance on ESPN’s First Take this morning, accusing general manager Rob Pelinka of “betrayal,” as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes. Johnson made it clear that Pelinka was the person he was referring to when he spoke during his resignation announcement about “backstabbing” within the organization.

“I start hearing, ‘Magic, you are not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office,'” Johnson said. “People around the Lakers office were telling me Rob was saying things, Rob Pelinka, and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back, that I wasn’t in the office enough. So I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things now were said to them outside of basketball now, just not in the Lakers office anymore.”

According to Johnson, he was prepared to help groom Pelinka as his eventual replacement atop the Lakers’ front office, but felt as if the GM was angling for his job sooner, and ultimately decided he couldn’t work alongside someone he thought was trying to undercut him. Asked whether there were others in the front office he felt betrayed by, Johnson only identified Pelinka.

“Just Rob,” Johnson said. “Other people didn’t bother me… what happened was I wasn’t having fun coming to work anymore, especially when I got to work beside you, knowing that you want my position.”

Here’s more from Johnson’s eventful TV appearance:

  • In Magic’s view, there were too many cooks in the kitchen in the Lakers’ basketball operations department, writes Youngmisuk. Johnson specifically singled out president of business operations Tim Harris as an executive whose role and influence in basketball operations became outsized.
  • Harris became involved in the head coaching decision after Johnson and owner Jeanie Buss debated the merits of firing head coach Luke Walton, according to Magic. Johnson wanted to replace Walton, but Buss apparently wavered on giving him the go-ahead to do so, as Youngmisuk details. “We went back and forth like that and then she brought Tim Harris into the meeting. Some of the guys and Tim wanted to keep [Walton] because he was friends with him. I said when I looked up, I only really answer to Jeanie Buss,” Johnson said. “Now I got Tim involved. It’s time for me to go. I got things happening that were being said behind my back. I don’t have the power I thought I had to make decisions. And I told them, when it is not fun for me, when I think I don’t have the decision-making power I thought I had, I got to step aside.”
  • Johnson indicated that Tyronn Lue would have been his choice to replace Walton as the team’s new head coach (Twitter link via Clevis Murray of The Athletic).
  • Discussing the Lakers’ 2018 free agent decisions, Johnson said that the Lakers didn’t want to offer Julius Randle a contract longer than one year, adding that Randle may not have been a fit anyway if he had remained on the roster (Twitter link via Murray).

Lakers Won’t Hire Replacement For Magic Johnson

The Lakers will not hire a president of basketball operations to replace Magic Johnson, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne tweets.

GM Rob Pelinka will remain in his role and report directly to ownership, Shelburne adds. Pelinka had previously reported to Johnson.

Johnson stunned the franchise by resigning from his position last month without giving anyone in the organization prior notice. A report from ESPN earlier this week revealed that owner Jeanie BussPelinka, senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis, and executive director for special projects Linda Rambis “operate as a group on basketball decisions.”

The Lakers just hired Frank Vogel as their new head coach after negotiations to bring in former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue fell apart.

With Pelinka’s power seemingly growing, the pressure will be on the former agent to deliver stars via trades or free agency to play alongside LeBron James. The Lakers had good luck in the lottery earlier this week, moving up to the No. 4 pick.

Lakers Notes: No. 4 Pick, Cap Room, Kidd

The NBA’s new draft lottery format benefited the Lakers in a big way on Tuesday night. Under the old system, the lottery would have been complete once the first three picks were determined. This year though, one additional drawing was conducted, allowing the Lakers to defy the odds and move up all the way from No. 11 to No. 4. As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com details, general manager Rob Pelinka was thrilled by the outcome.

“This is a powerful asset for us,” Pelinka said on a conference call. “We owe a commitment to our fans to have an outstanding season next year. What this does is it gives us the ability to either select an impact player at [No.] 4 or possibly use this as an extremely valuable asset in trade.”

While having a lottery pick just outside of the top 10 would have been useful for the Lakers, moving into the top five represents an “extraordinary shift” for the franchise, according to Pelinka.

“I mean, top-five picks in the draft, if you go back in the history and study them, those picks can alter and impact franchises,” Pelinka said. “This is a big moment for us. Last year, of course, we had to go through some hard and difficult things that this is certainly a great silver lining. Our dedication is really toward our fans right now and doing all we can to deliver a really special Lakers season for our fans.”

As we wait to see what the Lakers do with their pick, let’s round up a few more notes on the team…

  • The one downside of the Lakers’ move up to No. 4 is that the increased cap hold for the higher pick will cut into their projected space, tweets cap expert Larry Coon. Based on the NBA’s current projections, it also may affect the team’s ability to land a max free agent. Our updated cap digest shows the Lakers can create $32.5MM in projected room — the maximum salary for a free agent like Kyrie Irving or Jimmy Butler (with 7-9 years of experience) would be $32.7MM.
  • The Lakers don’t need to blow up their roster or their front office, but they’d benefit from adding some experience in both areas, according to Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times, who makes the case for why the team should hire an accomplished executive and add at least one or two veteran players this offseason.
  • The Lakers are asking for trouble by hiring Jason Kidd as an assistant coach, says Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times, arguing that the Kidd decision is the most baffling one the team has made in recent months.
  • Ohm Youngmisuk and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com recently took a deep dive into the Lakers’ front office hierarchy to determine who has the most influence and who’s calling the shots. Sources tell ESPN that Jeanie Buss, Rob Pelinka, Kurt Rambis, and Linda Rambis “operate as a group on basketball decisions.”

Pacific Notes: Sarver, Lakers, Durant, Curry

The Suns just hired the much-sought after Monty Williams as their next head coach, have two young studs in guard Devin Booker and big man Deandre Ayton, and share the top odds in Tuesday’s lottery to obtain the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. In other words, owner Robert Sarver has run out of excuses, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic

The Suns have had a losing record in the past five consecutive seasons, and Sarver’s reputation continues to suffer as a result. The fact that the team shuffles through staff so quickly doesn’t help either, but as Rankin notes, the Steve Nash-era Suns were Sarver’s teams as well, so it’s not like Sarver can’t turn things around.

The first step? Reports are he admitted to making mistakes to Williams before the new head coach was hired, which gave Williams enough respect for the franchise to choose the Suns as his next landing spot. The next step? Hoping for good luck on Tuesday night.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, the Lakers would be best served by new ownership. The Buss family, particularly Jeanie Buss, has now overseen a sudden, public resignation from one of its all-time greats (Magic Johnson) and a protest by one of the league’s most die-hard fan bases. That, coupled with the Tyronn Lue fiasco, has created one of the most trying and embarrassing times in franchise history.
  • Despite the rumor mill cranking out the notion that Kevin Durant is headed elsewhere this summer, there is still a sense in Warriors‘ circles that Durant may stay in the Bay Area, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.
  • Per Mark Medina of The Mercury News, the dislocated left middle finger of Warriors sharpshooting point guard Stephen Curry is still causing a lot of pain, and Curry and the medical staff of Golden State are still figuring out different ways to make the situation (i.e. splint, buddy tape) more manageable as the postseason moves forward.