Magic Johnson

NBA Reveals New Conference Finals MVP Awards, Fresh Tributes For Existing Awards

The NBA has created two new Conference Finals MVP awards to honor the best performances in each conference, as well as overhauling several of its signature postseason awards, the league announced today in a press release.

The Conference Finals awards will pay tribute to two Hall of Fame players with some of the starriest resumes in league history, who have each made plenty of appearances in the playoffs’ penultimate round.

The Western Conference Finals MVP will now be rewarded with the Earvin “Magic” Johnson Trophy. The hardware honors Lakers legend Magic Johnson, a 12-time All-Star and five-time champion with Los Angeles who advanced out of the West and into the Finals nine times during his 13-season career.

Johnson was named to both the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1997 and its 75th Anniversary Team this year. Johnson was also a key member of the 1992 Olympic gold medal-winning “Dream Team.” He went on to enjoy an incredibly lucrative career with a variety of businesses following his NBA tenure, as well as several successful stints as a league broadcaster. He had an ownership stake with the Lakers for the team’s five subsequent titles from 2000-2002 and 2009-2010. He briefly returned to the Lakers in separate stints as a coach and executive, and is currently advising Lakers owner Jeanie Buss in an informal capacity. Johnson also won another basketball title as the co-owner of the WNBA club the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016.

“The NBA Conference Finals represent the last hurdle a team must face for an opportunity to make it to the big stage, the NBA Finals,” Johnson, now 62, said of the honor. “I’m truly honored to have my name memorialized on the Western Conference Finals Most Valuable Player Trophy. This player excels on both ends of the court, makes his teammates better and leads his team to the greatest stage in basketball.”

The Larry Bird Trophy will be given to the Eastern Conference Finals MVP, in tribute to Johnson’s longtime Eastern Conference counterpart Larry Bird. Bird also made his NBA debut during the 1979/80 NBA season along with Johnson, following three years at Indiana State that culminated in an NCAA championship game loss to Johnson’s Spartans. Bird bested Johnson for the 1980 NBA Rookie of the Year award with the Celtics.

In a 13-year playing career for Boston, Bird – like Johnson – made nine All-NBA First Teams and one All-NBA Second Team. The 6’9″ forward was named to three All-Defensive Second Teams, won three championships with the Celtics, and was awarded the Finals MVP in two of those title trips. He advanced to the NBA Finals out of the East five times. Bird was a three-time league MVP and one-time All-Star Game MVP. Like Johnson, Bird was a 1992 Olympic gold medalist, though back issues limited his efficacy with the club. Bird was named to both the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.

“I am very honored to have my name associated with the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals MVP Trophy,” the 65-year-old Bird said. “I know how tough it is to get to this great milestone of the Eastern Conference Finals and to be named the Most Valuable Player makes it even more special.”

Bird’s history with the Eastern Conference Finals doesn’t end with his playing career. He later served as the head coach of the Pacers for three seasons from 1997-2000, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals twice and the NBA Finals once, in 2000. Bird then moved on to become the Pacers’ team president, leading Indiana to three more Eastern Conference Finals appearances before ultimately moving to a consulting role with the club in 2017. He is currently the only person to have won the NBA MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year honors.

The NBA will also pay tribute to two other Hall of Famers with some additional Conference Championship hardware.

The league has renamed the Western Conference Championship Trophy the Oscar Robertson Trophy, named after the Hall of Fame point guard Oscar Robertson, who served a starry 14-year career with the Bucks and Cincinnati Royals. Robertson was a 12-time All-Star, a nine-time First Teamer, and two-time Second Teamer, a three-time All-Star Game MVP, a one-time league MVP, and the 1961 Rookie of the Year.

“I am thrilled to have the NBA Western Conference Champions Trophy named in my honor,” said the 83-year-old Robertson. “Several decades ago, I played in an emerging and highly competitive league with tremendous talent. This trophy represents to me not only my hard work to make the league better, but all the efforts of the future Oscar Robertson Trophy winners who make the NBA great.”

In the Eastern Conference, the championship trophy will now be known as the Bob Cousy Trophy, a tribute to the longtime Celtics Hall of Fame point guard Bob Cousy. The 6’1″ Holy Cross alum, selected with the No. 3 pick by Boston in 1950, has been named to the 25th, 35th, 50th and 75th NBA Anniversary teams. He went on to make 13 All-Star teams and win six titles with Boston. Cousy was also a 10-time All NBA First Teamer and a two-time Second Teamer, in addition to winning one MVP in 1957.

“I have been part of the NBA family since 1950 and among the greatest joys of my post-playing career has been watching the game continue to evolve into what it is today,” the 93-year-old Cousy said. “There are few greater achievements in sports than representing your conference in the NBA Finals, and I’m moved that the NBA has granted me the honor of being connected to the Eastern Conference champions for years to come.”

The NBA has also re-designed its Larry O’Brien Trophy, awarded to the winner of the NBA Finals, and its Bill Russell Trophy, given to the NBA Finals MVP.

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss Discusses Down Year, Front Office, More

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss wasn’t happy with the way her team’s season played out, she said in a wide-ranging interview with Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. With championship expectations and one of the NBA’s most expensive rosters entering the 2021/22 season, Los Angeles went 33-49 and missed both the playoffs and the play-in tournament.

“I’m growing impatient just because we had the fourth-highest payroll in the league,” Buss told Plaschke. “… When you spend that kind of money on the luxury tax, you expect to go deep into the playoffs. So, yeah, it was gut-wrenching for me to go out on a limb like that and not get the results that we were looking for. … I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied.”

As the final decision-maker on Lakers matters, Buss said it was up to her to “make things better” after an “extremely disappointing” year, which could mean making personnel changes on and off the court.

“Absolutely, if we are not living up to the Lakers standard, absolutely I will look at everything,” she said. “… I will make the hard decisions, because that’s what you have to do.”

Although it sounds like front office changes could be on the table if the Lakers have another down year, Buss appears prepared to give VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and his group at least one more shot to reshape and upgrade the roster, as well as to hire a new head coach, Plaschke writes.

“In terms of basketball decisions, I have complete confidence in our front office, which is headed by Rob Pelinka,” Buss said. “He is a person that is extremely smart, extremely strategic, everything he does is thoughtful and with purpose. … I have complete confidence that he can put together a roster and find a coach that is going to get us back to where we belong.”

Here’s more from Buss on the state of the Lakers:

  • Buss confirmed that she receives input from Kurt Rambis, Linda Rambis, Magic Johnson, Phil Jackson, LeBron James, and Klutch Sports, but insists that none of those figures have outsized voices within the organization. “Do they have final say? No. Are they running the team? No, no, not at all,” Buss said when asked about James and Klutch Sports, adding that it’s normal for teams to bounce ideas off of their top players. “I am controlling owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m held accountable for every decision that’s made here.”
  • Buss defended Kurt Rambis’ track record against what she perceives as “unfair criticism” and stressed that Linda Rambis has no input in basketball decisions. “In terms of Linda Rambis, she does not have a role in the basketball department; her role is, as it’s been for the last almost 40 years, is as my advisor,” Buss told Plaschke. “She and I have worked together for years and years and years. Why that has become an issue for people, I don’t understand.” Linda helps new Lakers players and their families adjust to Los Angeles, according to Buss: “Every team has somebody like that, in our case it’s Linda. … She’s done that for over 30 years with the Lakers. Not like all of a sudden she’s become the assistant general manager, that’s not true.”
  • Buss believes the Lakers can win another title with James and Anthony Davis as their cornerstones, but declined to speculate on Russell Westbrook‘s future with the team. “Having a conversation like that is premature,” she said. “We have to now find the right coach to lead this team. Depending on the style of play that that coach wants to play, given the roster that we have, it all has to start to come together.”
  • Buss hasn’t given any thought to the idea of selling the Lakers, telling Plaschke that her late father Jerry Buss always wanted to keep the franchise in the family. “I’m not going anywhere. This is exactly what my dad asked me to do. The team is not for sale,” Jeanie said. “… I like to say, my dad had his children, but the Lakers were his baby, and he put me in charge of the baby, and I will make sure that the baby thrives.”

And-Ones: Johnson, 2023 Draft, Fan Costs, Herd

Lakers legend Magic Johnson has decided to enter the bidding for the NFL’s Denver Broncos, according to Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams of Sportico. Johnson is joining the group led by Sixers co-owner Josh Harris.

Johnson replaced Jim Buss as Lakers president of basketball operations in 2017, then resigned from his role in 2019. His storied playing career includes five NBA championships and three MVP awards across 13 seasons.

Johnson also owns part of the Dodgers (MLB) and Sparks (WNBA). The Broncos are being sold by the Bowlen family, which has owned the franchise for 38 years. Our friends at Pro Football Rumors have more on Harris’ and Johnson’s bid for the team.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN have released their 2023 mock draft, which features several young talents from around the globe. French big man Victor Wembanyana appears to be the consensus No. 1 pick at this point. The talented 18-year-old is 7’3″ with a 7’9″ wingspan, intriguing NBA scouts. Givony and Schmitz project G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson and Arkansas guard Nick Smith to be the second and third picks, respectively.
  • Bill Shea of The Athletic explores the general fan costs of all 30 teams. Shea examines factors such as ticket prices and concessions, concluding that the Knicks, Warriors and Lakers provide the most expensive costs for fans.
  • Wisconsin Herd president Steve Brandes has been recognized as the 2021/22 NBA G League Team Executive of the Year, the club announced in a press release. The Herd were also recognized with the inaugural 2021/22 NBA G League President’s Choice Award, which is given to the team that demonstrates what each G League club should strive to be.

Lakers Notes: Davis, James, Injuries, DeRozan

The Lakers aren’t technically out of playoff contention yet, but after falling two games (and a tiebreaker) behind San Antonio in the Western Conference standings on Sunday, their odds of claiming a spot in the play-in tournament are increasingly slim — in fact, the Lakers could be officially eliminated as soon as Tuesday if they lose in Phoenix and the Spurs win in Denver.

Following Sunday’s loss, Anthony Davis sounded like someone who recognized that L.A.’s season is all but over, as he reflected on “what could have been” if the team had been healthier.

“I think the biggest thing that I think about personally is what we could have been, had we stayed healthy all year,” Davis said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “What could we have been. … Guys feel like, ‘OK, what could we have been if I was healthy all year, [LeBron James] was healthy, [Kendrick] Nunn was healthy.’ You think about those things. We put this team together and it looked good on paper, but we haven’t had a chance to reach that potential with guys in and out of the lineup.”

Davis, who has only played in half of the Lakers’ 78 games so far this season, has been bothered throughout his career by injuries, but he bristled at the perception that he’s fragile, telling Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times that he hasn’t been sidelined due to “little ticky-tack injuries.”

“This is what I’ve learned about injuries,” Davis said. “Last year when I wasn’t playing, people were saying, ‘AD’s giving up on his team. It’s the playoffs. AD has to play. He’s got to play.’ And when I went out there to play, got hurt again, they said, ‘Who was his trainer? Who let him play?’

“So, what the [expletive] do you want me to do? When I play, it’s a problem. It’s a problem when I don’t play. At the end of the day, I’ve got to do what’s best for me and how my body feels. And we go from there. I’m not worried about who’s saying what or who thinks this about me because none of them have stepped on the floor and played. And the ones that did play, they should understand.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • A source familiar with James’ status told Dave McMenamin of ESPN that the star forward is “unlikely” to play on Tuesday vs. Phoenix. However, according to McMenamin, the source said there’s still a chance that could change if LeBron’s ankle improves more than expected by tomorrow night.
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic and his colleague John Hollinger both pushed back against the idea that injuries have been the primary cause of the Lakers’ disappointing season. Buha observed that even in games when Davis and James played, the team was just 11-11, while Hollinger said the team’s offseason plan needs to be better than simply running it back and hoping its two superstars stay healthy in 2022/23.
  • Appearing on ESPN’s Get Up and First Take on Monday, former Lakers president Magic Johnson criticized the club for not acquiring DeMar DeRozan last offseason instead of Russell Westbrook (link via Jenna Lemoncelli of The New York Post). While that’s not an unreasonable take, given that DeRozan had interest in playing for his hometown team, Johnson’s assertion that the Lakers could’ve had DeRozan, Buddy Hield, Alex Caruso, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope instead of Westbrook is a fantasy that doesn’t pass muster. Unless DeRozan had been willing to sign for the taxpayer mid-level exception (which wasn’t viewed as a viable option at the time), L.A. would’ve become hard-capped by acquiring him and would have had no way of carrying all those contracts in addition to James’ and Davis’ maximum salaries. Acquiring both DeRozan and Hield without giving up Caldwell-Pope also likely wouldn’t have been possible due to salary-matching rules.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Caruso, Vogel, Magic, Augustin, Gabriel

LeBron James dropped 56 points on the Warriors Saturday night, leading the Lakers to a 124-116 win and ending a four-game losing streak, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. James shot 19-of-31 from the field, 6-of-11 from three, and 12-of-13 from the line while adding 10 rebounds and three assists in nearly 39 minutes of action.

The 56-point effort tied Trae Young‘s NBA season-high and is the most points LeBron has scored in a game for Los Angeles, Buha notes. James said he was just happy to get a win.

It’s funny, our guys were following me off the floor tonight going into the locker room and they asked me, ‘How does it feel to score 56?’” James said. “I said, ‘Right now, I don’t give a damn about the 56. I’m just happy we got a win.’ That’s just literally the first thing that came to my mind.”

James’ spectacular performance was historic for a couple other reasons, Buha writes. He passed Karl Malone for the most combined regular season and postseason minutes, and became just the fourth player to record 50-plus points in a game at age 37 or older, joining Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Jamal Crawford.

There’s really no words for it,” coach Frank Vogel said of James’ 56-point game. “An incredible performance by the best to ever do it, in my opinion, and as I’ve said.”

The Lakers have had an undeniably disappointing season, barely clinging to the No. 9 seed in the West with a 28-35 record, but James has been consistently great on offense. He’s now tied with Giannis Antetokounmpo for second in the league in scoring with 29.4 points per game, just a tenth of a point behind Joel Embiid‘s league-leading 29.5. It’s James’ highest scoring average since 2009/10.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • A source tells Marc Stein of Substack that James was a leading supporter of Alex Caruso and badly wanted the Lakers to re-sign him, but the team declined to offer Caruso a contract comparable to the four-year, $37MM deal he received from the Bulls last summer due to luxury tax concerns. Caruso was having a strong season for Chicago, but has played just 28 games to this point and is currently sidelined with a fractured right wrist.
  • Appearing on NBA Today, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (video link) that the Lakers haven’t moved on from Vogel due to long-term injuries to Anthony Davis and Kendrick Nunn, and more importantly the front office doesn’t think that replacing Vogel would make a difference in the team’s performance. “(The Lakers) would like to get through the rest of this season with Frank Vogel,” Wojnarowski said.
  • Prior to Saturday’s game, in an appearance on NBA Countdown (video link), Magic Johnson said the trade for Westbrook “could go down as the worst trade in Laker history” if L.A. is unable to advance past the play-in tournament.
  • D.J. Augustin and Wenyen Gabriel are eager to make an impact with their new club, according to Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group. “I know they haven’t been playing up to everybody’s expectations, I would say,” Augustin said of the Lakers. “But it’s the NBA, and things happen. But we’re still in a good position where we can still have a chance. And that’s all you need in this league, is a chance.”

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Bazemore, Craig, Biyombo

Magic Johnson stepped down from his post as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations in 2019 but team owner Jeanie Buss still leans on the Hall-of-Famer for advice, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic. “To me, he’s still working with us,” Buss said. “In terms of an official capacity, in the NBA, you have to be very clear as to who can negotiate on your behalf and who can’t. So he doesn’t have that official designation. But in terms of his support, his wisdom, his insight, I freely call on him as needed.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kent Bazemore hasn’t been part of the Lakers rotation since mid-November and hasn’t played since February 3. However, he’s not sulking over his lack of playing time, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes. “Some nights, it gets hard having to hold back that competitive nature. Especially if a guy gets going, I know defensively, I made a living off of taking guys out of the game, shutting off the water, so to speak. That gets the best of me sometimes,” Bazemore said. “But that’s just the competitor in me. … I’m doing what I love. I don’t mind putting in the work for it, even though I’m out of the rotation.”
  • The Suns wanted to bring back Torrey Craig during the offseason but prioritized signing JaVale McGee with their mid-level exception, John Gambadoro of of 98.7 FM Phoenix tweets. Craig found a two-year deal with Indiana before the contract with McGee was finalized. Craig was traded back to Phoenix last week. The Suns still have a portion of the mid-level available to use on the buyout market, Gambadoro adds.
  • Craig said the trade back to the Suns was a deadline-day surprise to him, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. “It just happened so fast,” Craig said. “I was literally practicing in Indiana and then I noticed it was an hour before the trade deadline. Came to my phone and I had a couple of missed calls from my agent. And then he called me and told me (the) situation and I was like, wow. It had just happened. It was a quick turnaround. I packed and I came here. I’m excited to be back.”  
  • Bismack Biyombo told his agent, former NBA player B.J. Armstrong, that he only wanted to sign with a title contender in free agency, Marc Spears of The Undefeated reports. “That was the hardest part,” Biyombo said. “I talked to my agent and I said, ‘Look, the only way I will do it is for a contender. Otherwise, I’m not doing it.’ Biyombo remained unsigned until a 10-day with Phoenix under the hardship exception. He later signed a rest-of-the-season deal with the Suns last month.

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss Talks LeBron, Front Office, AD, More

With the Lakers back in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, team owner Jeanie Buss told Sam Amick of The Athletic in a podcast appearance that MVP runner-up LeBron James has played a key role in “bringing this franchise back to where it should be” and that she’s extremely proud of the fact that he plays for the Lakers.

“I hope he plays for many, many more years. But whatever his term is with the Lakers, he has forever left his mark on this team and this organization and on me,” Buss said of LeBron. “He is somebody that I treasure, and I will protect. I have just enjoyed watching him play and nurture along his teammates and bring out the best in them. He really is the most unique person in the league today.”

Buss’ lengthy conversation with The Athletic touched on several more topics, including some past dysfunction in the Lakers’ front office, the team’s hiring of Frank Vogel in the spring of 2019, the trade for Anthony Davis, and much more.

The discussion is worth checking out in full, but here are a few more highlights from Buss, via Amick:

On prior front office dysfunction and how the Lakers addressed it:

“There were too many voices (in the room), too many leaks, too many people talking and not being on the same page. And so we took the offseason to shore those things up. We like to collaborate together, to be on the same page. It doesn’t mean just a bunch of people agreeing for the sake of agreeing. We like to hash things out, debate, just work through. So yes, the people that I rely on, that I trust — Rob (Pelinka) leading our front office, Kurt Rambis being an adviser, Linda Rambis who I’ve worked with for over 30 years. These are the people that I trust, and then bringing on a coaching staff that reflected those beliefs and that level of collaboration.”

On the scrutiny the Lakers faced following Magic Johnson’s surprise resignation last spring:

“We knew that when Magic stepped down from his position with the Lakers that — (and) while I’m still not exactly clear why (he stepped down), and why it had to be that day — we knew that the outside world would be questioning everything that we were doing and that we just kind of had to let it roll off our backs and just do the work. And we knew that that takes time.

On the acquisition of Anthony Davis:

“It was difficult. I think, probably for me, the hardest thing in this business is trading away players. … (But) it was really the right thing for us to do, because when you have somebody like LeBron James, and where he is in his career, you’ve got to go all in.”

On the Lakers filling out the rest of their roster in 2019’s free agent period:

“(It) was a little odd just because decisions were being, you know, kind of stretched long. But I think we recovered well from the delay. And you know, the roster that Rob Pelinka put together, really you’re now seeing what the vision was, because it is a versatile team that can go big, can go small, and that doesn’t really show until you’re in the playoffs. Well, we hadn’t been in the playoffs for so long it was really hard to see what the vision was and where we were going. But now that we’re in the playoffs, you can see how the versatility of the lineups (works). And that’s really a testament to our front office being led by Rob Pelinka.”

L.A. Notes: Williams, Clippers, Magic, AD

Clippers guard and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, 33, tells Stadium’s Shams Charania in an exclusive video sitdown that he considered retirement in the summer of 2017. After being traded from the Lakers to the Rockets to the Clippers within the span of a few months, Williams felt like his NBA days were numbered.

“I was done,” Williams said. “[I was on] three teams in six months. You know, you kind of look around and you’ve got to be realistic with yourself… When guys [are] getting bounced around, you know, eventually it’s going to stop bouncing and you’re going to be sitting around waiting for a phone call.” Williams would go on to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award in each of his two seasons with the Clippers, and is a frontrunner thus far this year.

Thus far, Williams boasts averages 19.9 PPG, 6.3 APG and 3.2 RPG for the Clippers. He is shooting 36.8% from beyond the three-point line and 83.8% from the free-throw line.

Williams credits Clippers head coach Doc Rivers with reassuring him that he was valued in Los Angeles. “I had a conversation with Doc. He was like, ‘I don’t know what these other teams are thinking, but we need you, and you can get comfortable, [you’re going to] be here.'”

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson tells Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke that the 24-4 Lakers, who have retained just six players from the 2018/19 season, “would not be in the position [they’re] in without me.” Johnson infamously quit the position on television ahead of the Lakers’ final regular season game. “This was my strategy, this is what I thought we’d be in three years,” he tells Plaschke. “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.”
  • The Clippers‘ forthcoming Inglewood arena has been given the fast-track green-light by California governor Gavin Newsom on December 13, according to Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times. California’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee has 30 days from the date of the Newsom certification to approve the signing.
  • During a First Take interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Lakers All-Star power forward Anthony Davis was careful to note that his team’s hot start has not altered his noncommittal stance on his impending 2020 free agency. “We’ll see what happens at the end of the season,” Davis told Smith. “I’m trying to stay in the moment and worry about [free agency] when the season’s over.”

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Rondo, Kings, George

Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson recently appeared on Fox Sports 1 to discuss his old team, the well-documented trade conversations involving Anthony Davis and more.

Prior to the trade deadline last February, with Davis seeking to move out of New Orleans, Johnson and then-Pelicans GM Dell Demps engaged in a serious of discussions with hopes of finalizing a trade to land Davis in Los Angeles. The Lakers never believed Demps was truly looking to accommodate Davis’ request, and Johnson used a noteworthy level of honesty while discussing the matter in his appearance on Fox.

“He was looking at me like I caused Anthony Davis to want to be traded,” Johnson said (h/t Dan Feldman of NBC Sports). “So, we’re on the phone, and he’s blaming me. I said, ‘What are you blaming me for, Dell?’ I heard he wanted to be traded, so I’m giving you a call. ‘Are you going to trade him?’ ‘You’re not going to trade him.’ So, he had me send three or four proposals, but he never got serious, Shannon. He never got serious. And I said, I told Rob [Pelinka], I told Jeanie [Buss], ‘He doesn’t want to trade AD to us.’ And sure enough, the last one was, ‘Give us your whole team and five first-round picks.’ I said, ‘Listen, man. [Laughter.] I can’t give you five first-round picks and the whole team.’ He wanted all our young guys. I said, ‘No, I can’t do it now.’ That’s when I said he doesn’t want to trade him.

“And look what happened. When they found out, the owner found out what was the trade proposal from us, she was like, ‘Oh, what are you doing?’ And then the new general manager comes.”

Johnson didn’t mince words about what failing to trade Davis did for Demps’ job security, either.

“It got him fired,” he proclaimed.

There’s more from the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Despite originally targeting a Sunday return date, Lakers guard Rajon Rondo (calf) will wait to make his season debut, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes (Twitter link). Rondo participated in a workout on Saturday and will work out again on Sunday to ramp up his endurance, Haynes notes. The Lakers have games scheduled this week against the Suns on Tuesday, Warriors on Wednesday and Kings on Friday.
  • In his latest mailbag, Jason Jones of The Athletic examines the situation of Kings big man Harry Giles, where coach Luke Walton stands with the front office, and more. Sacramento has opened the 2019/20 season with 3-6 record, including a 1-3 mark at home.
  • Clippers star Paul George could make his season debut as early as Monday after being cleared for five-on-five practice this weekend, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. George had separate surgeries earlier this year to repair a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder and a small labrum tear in his left shoulder.

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.