Magic Johnson

Lakers Rumors: Chandler, Walton, Johnson

Tyson Chandler probably won’t have a major impact as the backup center behind JaVale McGee, according to Matt John of Basketball Insiders. Chandler is expected to sign with the Lakers once he clears waivers after reaching a buyout agreement with the Suns. Kyle Kuzma didn’t handle the role of backup center well and Ivica Zubac hasn’t earned coach Luke Walton‘s trust, John continues. Phoenix’s defensive rating with Chandler on the court wasn’t much different than when he was off it over the past three seasons but he’s still an upgrade over the current options, John adds.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • The team may be hitting the panic button with regularity this season, Mark Whicker of the Los Angeles Times opines. Their poor defensive effort against Toronto on Sunday night was the type that leads to impulsive front office action such as firing the coach, Whicker continues. Walton was the betting favorite to lose his job before any other coach, Whicker notes. And though Walton has remained in charge despite some grumbling from Magic Johnson, more performances like the one against the Raptors could change that, Whicker adds.
  • The way Johnson tore into Walton last week could negatively impact the way free agents view the franchise, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes. Walton deserves a chance to figure things out and Johnson came across as a bully for dressing down Walton in a meeting last week, Plaschke continues. The fact that the story was leaked to the media shows dysfunction in the front office and that’s not a good look for free agents, who will be seeking stability next summer, Plaschke adds.
  • Johnson said Walton’s job was safe after Sunday’s game. Get the details here.

Magic Johnson: No Coaching Change Planned

Lakers president Magic Johnson says Luke Walton’s job is safe despite a highly publicized meeting last week where the need for improvement was emphasized, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. That meeting started rumors that Walton may not survive the first month of the season, but Johnson said a coaching change isn’t in the team’s plans.

“Yeah, we’re not going to fire him,” Johnson said Sunday night. “[The meeting last week with Walton] wasn’t even a meeting about that. We just have to be better, and that was it.”

Johnson added that something drastic would have to happen for Walton to be replaced, but declined to speculate what that might be, responding, “No, not going into that. He’s our coach, we’re supporting him, and that’s it.”

Johnson said the meeting with Walton, which came after a 2-5 start, was to discuss issues that were plaguing the team, especially on defense where the Lakers are among the worst in the league. L.A. responded with back-to-back wins, but was embarrassed by the Raptors last night, falling behind 41-10 on the way to a double-digit loss.

Before the game, Walton told reporters that he has been receiving messages of encouragement, but added that the public reaction won’t affect his approach to coaching.

“I have my job to coach this team and the support is nice, obviously, whether it is coming from my dad or it is coming from another coach,” Walton said. “It’s nice, but it doesn’t change what I am doing as far as the job and coaching this team and these players. It doesn’t influence that at all.

“… My job is hard, but it is a lot of fun. I love my job. And nothing changed. It didn’t get any harder.”

Walton is 65-109 since taking over the Lakers at the start of the 2016/17 season, but with the signing of LeBron James this is the first year he has had the talent to compete for a playoff spot.

Pressure Mounting On Lakers’ Luke Walton

Prior to the Lakers‘ win over Dallas on Wednesday, team president Magic Johnson “admonished” head coach Luke Walton for the team’s slow start, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. According to ESPN’s report, the meeting elevated the sense within the organization that Walton is facing “intense and immediate pressure” to improve upon L.A.’s 3-5 record.

Before the regular season began, Johnson stressed in public comments that the new-look Lakers would require patience while they found their footing. However, sources tell Wojnarowski and McMenamin that the team president has a reputation within the organization for an “often-time volatile management style,” which includes his handling of Walton and the Lakers’ assistants.

As Johnson puts more pressure on Walton, the Lakers’ head coach continues to have the support of controlling owner Jeanie Buss and of the team’s new star, LeBron James. James has been both publicy and privately supportive of Walton, as the ESPN duo notes, defending the coach’s frequent lineup shuffling early in the season.

“I think Luke’s trying to figure out what works best,” James said. “We knew it was going to be like that from the summer when ‘Zo (Lonzo Ball) had the knee surgery. We knew we were going to have a lineup change there. Obviously, we had the unexpected one when we had the suspensions (to Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram), so we had a lineup change there… We’ll get to a point where we know how comfortable we need to be with different lineups.”

Wojnarowski and McMenamin indicate that Walton’s job security in Los Angeles will ultimately hinge on his ability to significantly improve upon the team’s 3-5 start, though it’s not clear how quickly Johnson expects to see a turnaround. In the short term, the team’s weekend schedule doesn’t bode well for a return to .500 — the Lakers will play in Portland on Saturday before returning home to host the Raptors on Sunday.

Western Notes: Ball, Allen, Schroder, Rose

Magic Johnson knows a thing or two about passing — he ranks fifth in career assists with 10,141 — but Johnson, a three-time NBA MVP, also knows the importance of scoring. Johnson held a stellar mark of 11.2 assists per game in his career, but his ability to keep defenders guessing by also becoming an elite scorer is what truly made him great.

Johnson, who is in his second year as Lakers President of Basketball Operations, strongly believes this is the transition Lonzo Ball must now enter, according to Nick Schwartz of USA TODAY Sports. Ball has already become an accomplished passer, but has plenty of room to grow as a scorer.

“He has to learn how to attack the paint and get his floaters, and then take it all the way to the rim,” Johnson said. “He loves to pass first – and that’s fine, we want him to stay with that – but a lot of times now the defense is baiting him. ‘Go ahead and drive the lane, we know you’re going to kick it out.’ So they don’t really play him. So he’s got to take it all the way.

“He’s got to be able to score. And once he’s able to score… he can do everything else. He can play defense. He’s one of the best rebounding guards in the league. And he knows how to get his teammates great shots. We want him to keep the pace going, because we want to run, run, and run.”

Drafted by Johnson’s group, Ball, 20, can help round-out his overall offensive game by taking these strides. He made his season debut on Thursday against the Trail Blazers, three months after undergoing knee surgery.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers were more than just a team for the late Paul Allen — they were his passion, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Allen passed away this week after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He owned the Blazers for 30 seasons, purchasing the franchise in 1988.
  • Dennis Schroder proved his worth in the Thunder’s season-opener on Tuesday, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Schroder finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 34 minutes of work, filling in for the injured Russell Westbrook.
  • Derrick Rose‘s role will fluctuate with the return of Jimmy Butler, writes Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Rose was labeled as a starter alongside Jeff Teague before Butler’s return, but came off the bench in the team’s first game this week. “[Rose] has the versatility to play with both groups,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So he’s gotten comfortable playing the off guard; his natural position is the point. I think you can mix and match with those guys.”

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Green, Cousins, Cauley-Stein

Lakers legend Kobe Bryant played a key role in bringing LeBron James to Los Angeles this summer, Sam Amick of The Athletic reveals in a new story.

Bryant, who spent his entire 20-season career with the Lakers, met with team owner Jeanie Buss in February of 2017 to deliver strong advice: Shake up the front office, start new and bring a new culture to the franchise.

“Jeanie, I know who we’re trying to get; we know who we’re trying to get, so that player is not going to come here with all of this s–t going on,” Bryant said, according to Amick. “It’s not going to happen. So if you do want to have that focus, and go after that player, then I’m telling you that you’ve gotta clean house, and you’ve gotta just reshuffle the deck and start anew. You have the new practice facility (the UCLA Health Training Center) that we’re just moving into (in the summer of 2017). We’ve got new management, and off we go. But that player is not coming here unless you do that.

“As a player, it’s like, listen, it’s a cultural thing. You’ve got to have the right culture around, especially for him at this stage of his career,” Bryant explained. “You don’t want to come to a team and deal with a bunch of bull—-, right? You don’t want to come here and be part of an organization where the walls are talking and stuff is getting out left and right and you have this camp and that camp. You don’t want to do that. So I said, ‘You’ve got to start anew.’”

Buss listened to Bryant’s advice, firing older brother Jim Buss and letting go of general manager Mitch Kupchak. In turn, the team promoted Magic Johnson to president of basketball operations and hired Rob Pelinka as new general manager. Fast forward to July of 2018, and the new-look Lakers convinced James to sign a free-agent contract.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

Lakers Notes: Ball, Walton, Johnson, James

The Lakers’ brass is encouraged by Lonzo Ball‘s revamped shooting stroke, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register reports. Ball still holds the ball further left than most right-handed shooters but it’s closer to the center than last season, Goon notes. Ball shot 36% from the field and 30.5% from long range during his rookie season. “The way he’s shooting the ball looks a lot more fluid now,“ GM Rob Pelinka said. Ball, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this summer, has been medically cleared for camp but won’t initially participate in five-on-five scrimmages, Joey Ramirez of the team’s website reports. “He’s been 100 percent cleared by our medical staff to return to full basketball activity,” Pelinka said.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Luke Walton‘s job status won’t be in jeopardy if the team gets off to a slow start, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. LeBron James needs time to settle in with his new teammates, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson says, and Walton won’t be penalized during that process. “As I was talking to Luke, we said don’t worry about if we get out to a bad start,” Johnson said. “We have seen that with LeBron going to Miami, and we have seen that when he came back to Cleveland. He is going to struggle because there are so many new moving parts.”
  • Johnson shrugs off criticism of controversial free agent signings following James’ commitment, including Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee, Matt Eppers of USA Today writes. “We love that they all are different individuals and they bring something different to the table,” Johnson said. “We needed some grittiness, we needed some toughness. We needed somebody to come in and be upset that somebody had a defensive lapse.”
  • Johnson can’t hide his enthusiasm over James’ impact, even before training camp officially opens. “LeBron comes in, and he’s already in midseason form and shooting fadeaways and 3-pointers from almost half-court,” Johnson said in an Associated Press report. “And you’re sitting there saying, ‘Man, thank God we signed him.’”
  • Brandon Ingram and Stephenson are the team’s top small forwards and Ramirez takes a closer look at all the options at the position.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Giles, Ferrell, McMillan

Lakers president Magic Johnson is getting rave reviews from owner Jeanie Buss on the job he has done in remaking the team, relays Dan Feldman of NBC Sports. Johnson’s standout move was luring free agent LeBron James to L.A., but he also cleared away a lot of cap space and convinced a series of veterans to accept one-year deals so the Lakers can take another big swing in free agency next summer.

“I have complete faith in Magic Johnson in terms of his ability to be a leader, to know how to put together a winner,” Buss said this week in an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show. “And I have patience. And I think what he’s done has exceeded my expectations, how quickly they’ve kind of turned around the roster.”

There’s more today from the Pacific Division:

  • Harry Giles still hasn’t seen any NBA action, but he has been the most intriguing Kings story of the summer, notes Noel Harris of The Sacramento Bee. The Kings were extremely cautious with Giles after making him the 20th pick in the 2017 draft, sitting him out the entire season to make sure his knees were fully recovered from a series of surgeries that date back to high school. Giles was impressive in Summer League action and was picked as the Rookie of the Year favorite by ESPN’s Kevin Pelton.
  • Yogi Ferrell may have a prominent role off the bench in the Kings‘ backcourt, writes James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area in an examination of the team’s potential guard rotation. Sacramento was able to land Farrell in free agency after he pulled out of an agreement with the Mavericks in search of more guaranteed money. Ham expects newly acquired Ben McLemore to be bought out or traded and notes that the team would like to move Iman Shumpert, but is having trouble finding a taker for his $11.4MM salary.
  • Jamelle McMillan is enjoying a homecoming after being added to the Suns‘ coaching staff, writes Cody Cunningham of NBA.com. The son of Pacers head coach Nate McMillan, Jamelle played four seasons at Arizona State before starting his coaching career. At age 29, he is one of the NBA’s youngest assistants.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Magic, Roster

Much has been made of LeBron James‘ league-changing decision to leave the Cavaliers and sign with the Lakers. Whether it be a change of scenery where James can play a different style of basketball or simply lucrative opportunities in Hollywood, his decision has widespread impacts.

However, during an appearance on NBA TV, James’ longtime agent, Rich Paul, explained that his client choosing the Lakers was a “basketball decision” which made him happy, per USA TODAY.

“It was basically about what he wanted to do and what made him happy. And he earned that being in his 16th season,” Paul said. “You don’t have athletes in their 16th season be the No. 1 free agent.”

 James, entering his age 34 season, is coming off arguably his best campaign to date. The former four-time NBA Most Valuable Player averaged 27.5 PPG, 9.1 APG, and 8.6 RPG while playing in all 82 regular season games for the first time in his career. James then led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season but was ultimately unsuccessful in defeating the reigning champions.
While playing in Hollywood will undoubtedly open new doors for James, Paul said that was not the main factor in his decision.”
People say, ‘Well, it’s about movies, it’s about this.’ It’s LeBron James. He’s already a global entity, so it wasn’t necessarily about that,” Paul said.
Check out more LeBron-related Lakers notes below:
  • Magic Johnson‘s one-on-one meeting with James is what sealed his decision to sign with Los Angeles and the Lakers’ president discussed how that meeting unfolded, USA TODAY’s Sam Amick writes. Johnson described himself and James as mirror images of one another in terms of “championship DNA” and a focus on winning.  “He was really happy that Rob [Pelinka] and I were not rushing, not making mistakes by rushing, and I told him that we had a three-year plan, we had a plan that we wanted to execute and that he could really take that plan to a whole ‘nother level,” Johnson said.
  • Johnson also said that the Lakers will consult with James on signings and trades, as his input and experience holds a lot of value, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk writes. “We’re gonna go to LeBron and say if there’s a deal to be made for guys available, we’ll say to him, ‘What do you think about this guy? You know him. You play against him. You know the backstory and everything about the guy.'” Johnson said.

Western Notes: Capela, Stephenson, Jazz

The Rockets and Clint Capela may not be that far apart in negotiations toward a new deal, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link) is hearing that the team’s initial offer was not as low as previously reported. Sources tell Feigen that the July 1 offer was for $85MM over five years with Capela having the ability to earn up to $90MM based on incentives.

Rumors claiming the center wanted an offer in the neighborhood of $100MM over four years, similar to Steven Adams‘ pact, surfaced recently. Previous reports had Houston offering approximately $60MM over four years.

One source tells Feigen that the Rockets are optimistic about reaching a deal. Houston has the ability to match any offer, as Capela is a restricted free agent.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Magic Johnson said he consulted LeBron James before bringing Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, and JaVale McGee to the Lakers, as Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet relays (Twitter link). “LeBron’s won championships, been to eight straight Finals. You think Rob [Pelinka] and I are not going to ask him? No, we’re going to definitely ask him his opinion because he knows those players better than us,” Johnson said.
  • Stephenson said the Lakers want him to “bring intensity” every night, as Spectrum SportsNet’s Mike Trudell passes along (Twitter link). The 27-year-old wing officially signed his one-year deal today.
  • Chemistry was a major reason why the Jazz decided to keep their core intact. “Chemistry is a hard thing,” GM Dennis Lindsey said (via the Associated Press). “It’s a hard thing to predict. You can get five great people in the room and have it just not click for whatever reason, so we didn’t want to overthink that.”

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Leonard, Roster, Outlook

While he didn’t play a part in revealing LeBron James‘ new home this time around, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated has penned another excellent piece on LeBron’s latest decision. According to Jenkins, James initially narrowed down his preferred landing spots to the Lakers, Cavaliers, Sixers, and Rockets, instructing agent Rich Paul to research those organizations and give him feedback when he returned from a June vacation.

While the Rockets became a long shot after James opted out of his previous contract, the four-time MVP planned communications with the Cavaliers and Sixers at the start of free agency. The Lakers were his primary focus though, according to Jenkins, who notes that LeBron spoke to Kobe Bryant on the phone before meeting with Magic Johnson on Saturday night.

As Jenkins details, despite speculation that a second star like Kawhi Leonard or Paul George might be required to lure James to the Lakers, the future Hall-of-Famer had no problem being “the first headliner through the door.” Per Jenkins, LeBron believes that the Lakers have the recruiters, assets, and cap space necessary to build a lasting contender.

Here’s more on the Lakers’ and LeBron’s arrival:

  • Although he was strongly considering the Lakers before sitting down with Johnson on Saturday night, James wanted to meet face-to-face and see if he and the Lakers’ president of basketball operations could “find a trust” before he made a final decision, sources tells Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com (Twitter links). Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times has more details on that Saturday meeting between the former and future Lakers stars.
  • The Lakers‘ status as an iconic franchise and the ability to live full time in Los Angeles with his family were important factors in James’ decision, two people with knowledge of the situation tell Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Zillgitt also notes that the Sixers worked hard to trade for Leonard as a selling point while recruiting James, but never made serious traction with the Spurs.
  • Kevin O’Connor latest article for The Ringer cites multiple league sources who say that the Lakers‘ offers for Leonard have been “underwhelming.” However, O’Connor acknowledges that could change now that the team has secured a commitment from James. A package that sends Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle (via sign-and-trade), multiple first-round picks, and possibly Josh Hart to the Spurs could work, in the view of O’Connor’s sources.
  • James’ business and basketball worlds will come together in Los Angeles, as Sam Amick of USA Today details in his piece on LeBron’s decision.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com takes a closer look at how good the Lakers can be with their current roster and how they can become legit title contenders.
  • We examined the Lakers‘ cap situation for 2018/19 earlier today.