Kurt Rambis

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.

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.”

Lakers Hire Frank Vogel As Head Coach

MAY 13, 7:47pm: The Lakers have officially signed Vogel to a multiyear contract, according to a team press release.

“We are excited to add Frank Vogel as the next head coach of the Lakers,” Pelinka said in a statement. “Coach Vogel has a proven track record of success in the NBA Playoffs, and he reflects the core qualities we were looking for in a head coach – including, detailed game preparation, extreme hard work, and holding players accountable to the highest basketball standards.”

MAY 11, 6:13pm: Vogel has accepted a three-year deal to be the Lakers’ next coach, Wojnarowski tweets. Kidd has agreed to join his staff in a “prominent assistant coaching role” (Twitter link).

Vogel probably won’t have a top assistant, with the entire staff being considered equal, Woj adds. A team source called it “the Phil Jackson model,” another indication that Jackson and Rambis had a hand in Vogel’s hiring.

4:14pm: Frank Vogel has become “a front-runner” in the Lakers’ coaching search after interviewing with the team on Thursday, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Sources say the team plans to hire Jason Kidd as an assistant to work with Vogel.

GM Rob Pelinka has been talking to people who have experience with Vogel and Kidd to determine if they can comfortably fit together on the same staff, the authors add. The Lakers admire how Kidd developed young talent in Milwaukee and view him as a mentor for Lonzo Ball.

Vogel, 45, was previously a head coach with the Magic and Pacers, compiling a 304-291 record with five playoff appearances. He has been out of coaching since being fired in Orlando at the end of last season.

Vogel’s interview included “detailed discussions” on how he would handle a volatile situation in Los Angeles. The Lakers underachieved in LeBron James‘ first year in L.A., then saw team president Magic Johnson resign on the final day of the season, followed by a chaotic coaching search with assumed favorite Tyronn Lue turning down an offer this week.

[Related: 2019 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

The move toward Vogel underscores the influence of adviser Kurt Rambis and former coach Phil Jackson, according to Wojnarowski and Youngmisuk, who note that Vogel was the second choice when Jackson hired Jeff Hornacek to coach the Knicks three years ago.

Mike Woodson and Lionel Hollins were also rumored to be in the running for the Lakers’ job after negotiations with Lue ended. Their status is unclear in light of the latest news on Vogel.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Vogel, Kidd, Front Office

The Lakers are in position to dictate the terms of an Anthony Davis trade and should make an offer with a firm deadline, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN. L.A. made a strong push for Davis before the February deadline, reportedly offering several packages of young players and draft picks for the Pelicans star, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer.

Marks believes getting past the constraints of the regular season could work in the Lakers’ favor as they no longer have to take on an unwanted contract such as Solomon Hill‘s to complete a deal. He suggests offering Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, this year’s lottery pick plus an unprotected first-rounder in 2021 and giving New Orleans a June 30 deadline to complete the deal so it will be resolved before free agency.

Under that proposal, L.A. would use some of its cap space to absorb Davis’ salary, eliminating the opportunity to offer a max deal on the free agent market, but the Lakers would get their second star and still have enough left over to chase second-tier free agents.

There’s more this morning from Los Angeles:

  • If the Lakers can’t land Davis or sign an elite free agent, Marks recommends following the Pacers’ approach and improving the roster through two-year contracts. He identifies T.J. McConnell, Danny Green, Bojan Bogdanovic and Dewayne Dedmon as players who might be willing to take a portion of the available $35.6MM on short-term deals.
  • Because he had to take on Jason Kidd as an assistant, new Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is walking into a situation similar to what LeBron James‘ former coach, David Blatt, faced in Cleveland, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Blatt wasn’t able to earn respect from James, who bonded with former player Tyronn Lue, his top assistant, setting the stage for a coaching change a year later. James and Kidd already have a strong relationship, Windhorst notes, that began when they won Olympic gold medals together in 2008.
  • The Lakers’ awkward coaching search exposes the danger of having too many people trying to run the organization, writes Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. Kurt Rambis is expanding his power as an adviser, and his wife Linda has become a “shadow owner” because of her friendship with Jeanie Buss. Ex-coach Phil Jackson is also contributing ideas, while former team president Magic Johnson has reconciled with Buss and is offering advice as well.

Fallout From Failed Negotiations Between Lakers, Lue

Contract length was the main point of contention that prevented Tyronn Lue from becoming the Lakers’ next coach, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. L.A. was offering Lue $18MM over three years, which would line up with LeBron James‘ remaining commitment to the team. Lue was “insulted” that the Lakers viewed him as just a coach for LeBron and was seeking a five-year deal.

A source tells Shelburne that GM Rob Pelinka didn’t believe negotiations would collapse because Lue doesn’t have interest from any other teams (Twitter link). However, the Cavaliers still owe Lue about $10MM and he didn’t want to risk losing money by taking an offer that he considered below his market value. He also believes his experience coaching at a championship level warrants a longer commitment.

There’s more this morning on the Lue situation:

  • Talks also broke down because of the Lakers’ insistence on having the final say on Lue’s assistant coaches, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times. Lue was willing to make former Pacers and Magic head coach Frank Vogel his top assistant, sources tell Stein, but management wanted him to put Jason Kidd on the staff as well after he performed well in an interview. Stein also reports that two advisers to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss feared that the team would be giving James too much power by hiring Lue.
  • Former Lakers player Kurt Rambis, who now serves as an adviser, has expanded his power in the organization and is playing a critical role in the coaching search, relays Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
  • Buss made a mistake by letting Pelinka assume too much power after team president Magic Johnson resigned, contends Bill Oram of The Athletic. Lue was the only available candidate who has experience coaching James and was willing to sign up for another round, Oram notes, and Pelinka couldn’t get a deal done. He states that Buss should have found someone to serve as president of basketball operations and let him hire a GM and conduct the coaching search. Instead, she trusted the organization to Kobe Bryant‘s former agent.
  • The new coaching candidates — Vogel, Mike Woodson and Lionel Hollins, won’t inspire Lakers fans or help to satisfy James, who has just two years left before he can opt out of his contract, Oram adds. He also wonders how much ineptitude James is willing to put up with before he demands to be traded to a better-run organization.
  • Lue’s plans for the Lakers would have looked very similar to how he utilized James in Cleveland, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Lue believes LeBron is most effective in a structured offense where he has an order of options to follow depending on how the defense reacts. Under Luke Walton, the Lakers used more of a random approach where four players had the option to push the ball up court, while the others were instructed to fill lanes on the fast break. Lue told management he would have arranged the minutes for James and Brandon Ingram so that one was always on the court.

Lakers, Lue Working On Contract; Vogel Could Join Him

The Lakers are in negotiations with Tyronn Lue to make the former Cavaliers head coach their new coach, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports.

Lue has not yet accepted the job, as both sides are hammering out contractual parameters, Haynes continues. Former Pacers and Magic assistant Frank Vogel may become the lead assistant if Lue accepts the job, Haynes adds.

‪Kurt Rambis, currently an adviser to owner Jeanie Buss, has played a significant role in the hiring process.

Reports surfaced over the weekend that Lue was the Lakers’ top choice after Sixers assistant Monty Williams opted to become the Suns’ coach. LeBron James‘ former coach reportedly struck an emotional chord during the interview process. Juwan Howard and Jason Kidd were also interviewed for the position.

Pacific Rumors: Clippers, Irving, Rambis, Kidd, Suns

While Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant have been more frequently mentioned as potential targets, the Clippers also figure to give a long look to Kyrie Irving this summer, if the star point guard considers leaving Boston. In fact, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Clippers have already kicked the tires on Irving.

Charania reports that before they traded Tobias Harris to Philadelphia at this year’s deadline, the Clippers placed a preliminary call to the Celtics to inquire on Irving’s availability. The Celtics, whose ownership and senior leadership had agreed that the team wouldn’t shake things up in any real way at the trade deadline, gave the Clippers “a quick no,” per Charania.

As we wait to see if the Clips have more luck with Irving or other star free agents this summer, let’s round up a few more Pacific notes…

  • Based on a handful of reports within the last week, we’ve learned that Kurt Rambis has been involved in the Lakers‘ coaching search. While Rambis currently serves as a senior advisor to the franchise, the team may intend to make him an associate head coach or an assistant general manager this offseason, writes Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times.
  • Within that same article, Plaschke writes that Jason Kidd doesn’t appear to be a serious candidate for the Lakers‘ head coaching job. According to Plaschke, the team’s interview with Kidd looks like more of a favor to his agent Jeff Schwartz, who represents Lakers forward Brandon Ingram.
  • While Suns owner Robert Sarver has received criticism over the years for perceived meddling in the franchise’s basketball decisions, Sarver seems content – at the moment – to remain in the background and let new general manager James Jones run the show in Phoenix, writes Greg Moore of The Arizona Republic.

Coaching Updates: Williams, Lakers, Suns, Cavs

The Lakers sent a big contingent of executives to Philadelphia today for their second interview with head coaching candidate Monty Williams, reports Bill Oram of The Athletic (via Twitter). According to Oram, in addition to GM Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss, the meeting will also include Lakers executives Joey Buss, Jesse Buss, Kurt Rambis, Linda Rambis, and COO Tim Harris.

Williams won’t be the first candidate to meet with such a big group. According to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (via Twitter), the same Lakers executives met with Juwan Howard on Tuesday and Tyronn Lue on Wednesday. It was Howard’s first interview and Lue’s second for L.A.’s head coaching job.

As Oram observes (via Twitter), it’s somewhat interesting to see the younger Buss siblings, Jesse and Joey, involved in the process. While they’ve been part of the Lakers’ organization for years, their contributions have been limited to the scouting department and the G League affiliate — they’d been largely left out of major basketball operations decisions until now.

Here are a few more coaching-related updates from around the NBA:

  • The Lakers aren’t the only team with interest in Monty Williams. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Suns officials are traveling to Toronto to meet with the Sixers assistant on Friday before Philadelphia opens its series against the Raptors on Saturday. Phoenix received permission earlier this week to interview Williams, who has been identified as the team’s top candidate to replace Igor Kokoskov. The Suns may try to preempt a Lakers offer, Wojnarowski writes.
  • The Cavaliers and J.B. Bickerstaff are working to set up a meeting for next week, sources tell Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Bickerstaff said on Wednesday that he’s “definitely interested” in Cleveland’s head coaching job. Vardon also confirms that Juwan Howard and Jamahl Mosley are the only candidates who have formally interviewed with the Cavs so far.
  • The Cavaliers remain interested in Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez, but have yet to officially line up an interview, league sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Denver remains alive in the playoffs, so the Cavs will have to work around the Nuggets’ schedule.

Lakers Interview Jason Kidd For Head Coach Job

We can add another name to the list of candidates for the Lakers‘ head coaching job, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com reports that Jason Kidd has interviewed for the position.

According to McMenamin, Kidd’s interview took place on Monday, as the former Nets and Bucks head coach met with general manager Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis, who is back with the franchise in an executive role. The meeting lasted for several hours, sources tell McMenamin.

Kidd was linked to the Lakers multiple times during the season when Luke Walton was still under contract. However, his name didn’t come up right away in the wake of Walton’s dismissal, as interviews with Tyronn Lue, Monty Williams, and Juwan Howard were reported first. Kidd now joins that list of names, which could continue to grow if the team doesn’t make a quick decision on Walton’s replacement.

As McMenamin notes, Kidd is the latest Lakers candidate with ties to star forward LeBron James, having played with him during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Williams has also been involved with Team USA squads with James, while Lue coached LeBron in Cleveland and Howard played with him in Miami.

The Lakers were expected to interview Howard today, with follow-up sessions for Lue and Williams on tap for later this week.