Magic Johnson

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.

Kawhi Leonard Fallout: Clippers, Lakers, Raptors

After reaching deals late on Friday night to add Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to their roster, the Clippers are the new favorites to win the 2019 NBA title, according to the oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag. Unlike in recent years – when Golden State was the overwhelming frontrunner – the Clippers are only currently a slight favorite over the Lakers and Bucks, but it’s still a remarkable turnaround for a team that looked 24 hours ago as if it might strike out entirely in free agency.

The acquisitions of Leonard and George show how far the Clippers have come this decade, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who says the organization has “arrived” as a premier destination for star players.

Meanwhile, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets that Leonard and his camp found it “comical” that every report this week claiming to have identified Kawhi’s likely destination mentioned the Raptors or Lakers, but never the Clippers. While it’s not clear if the Clippers were always his No. 1 choice, Leonard reportedly worked hard this week to try to get George to join him in Los Angeles, as we detail in our round-up of PG13-related items.

Here are several more Kawh-related notes related to the two suitors that missed out on Leonard:

Lakers:

  • As of about two hours before Leonard chose the Clippers on Friday night, his camp was asking the Lakers to delay the Anthony Davis trade until late Saturday or Sunday, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who tweets that no specific reason was given.
  • If Leonard had signed with the Lakers, he would have had to do so before the Davis trade was formally completed in order to maximize his earnings, since the AD deal would’ve cut into the Lakers’ cap room. So it’s possible he was leaving a Plan B available if the Clippers were unable to acquire George — for what it’s worth, the Clippers reportedly believed Kawhi would join the Lakers if they didn’t trade for PG13.
  • It didn’t help the Lakers’ cause that a ton of specific details about Magic Johnson‘s meeting with Leonard leaked to the media, tweets Cris Carter of Fox Sports 1. I doubt that was a deciding factor for Leonard and his camp, but Carter is plugged-in with Kawhi’s group, so if he’s hearing it, it seems likely to be coming from them.
  • Losing the waiting game for Leonard was a worst-case scenario for the Lakers, who missed out on a handful of potential targets during the first week of free agency as they pursued Kawhi, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic. The team has since pivoted by reaching deals with Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, and Quinn Cook.

Raptors:

  • Leonard told his Raptors teammates via text message that he was leaving just as the news was breaking late on Friday night, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link).
  • Losing Leonard – and starting shooting guard Danny Green – sets the Raptors on a new path, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic, who explores what’s next for the franchise. While there will be calls to blow things up, Murphy suggests that the current Raptors should still be a playoff team, adding that Toronto may be reluctant to take on unwanted multiyear contracts in any trades, given how much money will come off its cap in 2020.
  • Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link) speculates that the Raptors will explore potential trades of their veterans on expiring contracts – such as Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka – as they look ahead to building around young players like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic acknowledges that Masai Ujiri will likely gauge the value of his veterans on the trade market, but agrees with Murphy that the Raptors are more likely to keep their roster more or less intact in a transition year.

Leonard’s Free Agency Could Go To End Of Week

Kawhi Leonard may not make a commitment in free agency until late this week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on the station’s Get Up program (Twitter link).

While the commitments of other top free agents Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler were made public before free agency officially began on Sunday night, Leonard will mull his options a little longer. The two Los Angeles teams and the Raptors are the contenders for his services.

“I’m told he is going to continue to take his time. … the teams who are involved are expecting that this could go even late into the week,” Wojnarowski said.

Leonard deliberation has already impacted the Lakers, who are looking to make a championship run next season. They’re interested in some lower-level free agents but have to await Leonard’s decision. Wojnarowski cited Seth Curry, who agreed to a contract with the Mavericks, as a player the Lakers were interested in signing.

“They’re going to keep losing guys off the board,” Wojnarowski said.

Leonard has spoken to Magic Johnson several times about the Lakers, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner, and there has also been a conversation with GM Rob Pelinka. Johnson can’t officially meet with Leonard on behalf of the organization after resigning his post as president of basketball operations but he’s free to speak in an unofficial capacity.

Turner told Spectrum Sportsnet that Leonard asked Johnson if the Lakers had make an attempt to trade for him prior to the Spurs’ deal with the Raptors (hat tip to SilverScreenAndRoll.com)

“There was one interesting question (Leonard) had for Magic: ‘Did you guys try to trade for me when I was in San Antonio?’ And the answer was ‘yes, but because it was Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, and our history, they were asking for 2,000 draft picks — well, not 2,000 — like four draft picks, first-round draft picks, and we just couldn’t do that.’ And that was one of his questions.”

Johnson told Leonard and his uncle, who participated in the conversations, that the disharmony within the front office is a thing of the past. Johnson also emphasized the storied history of the franchise, according to Turner.

“It’s about all those great players. You can be another one, you can join LeBron James and you can win more titles, and you don’t have to put as much stress on your body to do that. We have two stars to work with you,’” Johnson said.

Leonard also asked if he might be allowed to bring in his own trainer.

Free Agent Notes: Harris, Leonard, Portis

Tobias Harris is meeting with the Sixers to begin free agency, The Athletic’s David Aldridge tweets. Harris is seeking a full, five-year max deal.

Jimmy Butler is in Miami to begin his free agency tour and is expected to tell the Heat that he wants to sign with them. The Sixers will likely get a chance to speak with Butler before he signs elsewhere, as Miami doesn’t have the cap space necessary to offer Butler a max contract.

Here’s more from the start of free agency:

  • Magic Johnson said he has spoken to Kawhi Leonard and Dennis Robertson (Leonard’s uncle) after Leonard’s camp contacted him, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times relays (Twitter link). No meeting between the parties has been set up yet.
  • Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker are both operating as if they will not be back with the Wizards, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports reports on Twitter. Both players were brought to Washington in the mid-season deal that sent Otto Porter Jr. to Chicago.
  • Julius Randle is on the Knicks‘ radar, a source tells Marc Berman of the New York Post (Twitter link). New York missed out on Kevin Durant, watching him sign with the Nets.
  • The Knicks are meeting with Reggie Bullock tonight, Aldridge tweets. Bullock is ready to commit to a “strong offer,” Aldridge adds. The Lakers would like to keep him, though New York will be among the teams which will have a chance to steal him away from Los Angeles.

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: Johnson, Hart, Summer League, Offseason

Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson expects the new LeBron JamesAnthony Davis pairing to be successful, he said this week at the 2019 BET Experience Genius Talks, as relayed by Alexis Mansanarez of Sporting News.

“LeBron is still, you know, the best in basketball,” Johnson said. “And I think that when you put another superstar with him, an Anthony Davis, both of them will allow each other now to really play their game and dominate, because what happens, the floor will open up.

“And LeBron is such an incredible passer and driver, and he always makes his teammate better. So look for Anthony really to have probably one of his greatest seasons.”

Johnson resigned from his position toward the end of the 2018/19 season, but remains a strong supporter of the team he spent his entire playing career with.

Los Angeles traded away a major haul to acquire Davis from New Orleans: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks. With general manager Rob Pelinka taking over the day-to-day duties in Johnson’s absence, the team must now work to effectively fill the holes around Davis and James entering the 2019/20 season.

Here are some other notes out of Los Angeles tonight:

  • Former Lakers guard Josh Hart bid farewell to the team on social media after he was traded to New Orleans. “I want to thank the Laker organization, Jeanie Buss & Magic Johnson for taking a chance on me & believing in me,” Hart wrote. “To my teammates thank you for teaching me how to play & grow in this league. To the fans….THANK YOU! Thank you for embracing me and for supporting me through all the ups and downs! One of the best fan bases in the league. It was a dream come true to wear the purple and gold! It’s always love on this side but now N.O ‘Let’s dance.'”
  • Free agents Joe Young and Dakota Mathias have committed to playing summer league with the Lakers, Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress reports (Twitter link). Los Angeles opens summer league play on July 5 against Chicago.
  • Ameer Tyree of Sporting News outlines three things the team needs to add in order to be successful next season. Among the improvements needed is more outside shooting, a category the team lacked in this past season.

More On Anthony Davis-To-Lakers Trade Agreement

Just days after the NBA Finals and less than a week before the annual draft, the Pelicans and Lakers shook up the basketball world with one of the biggest blockbusters in league history. New Orleans agreed to trade disgruntled superstar Anthony Davis to the Lakers for guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, forward Brandon Ingram and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft.

We have more details and developments regarding the trade, which can’t be made official until next month.

  • The other two first-rounders the Pelicans will receive are a 9-30 protected pick in 2021 – which subsequently becomes unprotected in 2022 – and an unprotected pick in 2024. New Orleans will also have the right to swap unprotected first-rounders in 2o23 and will have the option to defer the 2024 pick until 2025, according to reports from Tim Bontemps of ESPN and Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter links).
  • The Pelicans are already receiving significant interest in the fourth overall pick, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.
  • Ingram is expected to get back on the court next month and be ready for training camp, according to Wojnarowski. He did not play after March 2 due to a blood clot in his right shoulder.
  • ESPN Jonathan Givony updated his mock draft in the aftermath of the deal, with Texas Tech shooting guard  Jarrett Culver going to New Orleans at No. 4, Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland heading to the Cavaliers at No. 5, North Carolina shooting guard  Coby White ticketed to the Suns at No. 6 and Virginia power forward  De’Andre Hunter winding up with the Bulls at No. 7 (Twitter link).
  • Former Lakers president Magic Johnson, who called GM Rob Pelinka a backstabber in a recent TV interview, praised his former front office partner after the deal. Johnson tweeted, “Great trade Rob Pelinka! Job well done.”
  • The Celtics’ chances of re-signing free-agent-to-be Kyrie Irving took a major hit with Davis heading to L.A. instead of Boston, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets.
  • New Orleans will have $18.8MM in cap space after the trade is finalized, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.
  • LaVar Ball, Lonzo’s outspoken father, called the trade “the worst move the Lakers ever did in their life” and guarantees they won’t win another championship, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets.

Pelicans Agree To Trade Anthony Davis To Lakers

The Pelicans have reached an agreement to trade All-Star big man Anthony Davis to the Lakers for guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, forward Brandon Ingram and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

The rest of the Pelicans’ haul includes a 9-30 protected first-rounder in 2021, which becomes unprotected in 2022, and an unprotected first-rounder in 2024.

New Orleans will also have the right to swap unprotected first-rounders in 2o23 and will have the option to defer the 2024 pick until 2025, according to reports from Tim Bontemps of ESPN and Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter links).

[UPDATE: Davis trade will become a three-team deal]

The Lakers immediately become championship contenders with Davis joining forces with LeBron James. Davis’ agent Rich Paul, also James’ agent, had tried to steer trade talks toward the Lakers over the winter after Davis’ desire to be traded was made public. But Davis didn’t get his wish at the time.

Paul and Davis recently met with the Pelicans’ new top executive, David Griffin, who tried to convince Davis to rescind his trade request. Davis declined and expressed his desire to play long-term for either the Lakers or Knicks.

GM Rob Pelinka, who has been under fire after criticism from former Lakers president Magic Johnson, pulled off a major coup by winning the Davis sweepstakes over the Knicks and Celtics, among others. Los Angeles gave up plenty in the deal but didn’t have to include another talented big man, Kyle Kuzma.

Davis could sign an extension with the Lakers but still intends to test free agency next summer, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets.

The Lakers will have either $27.8MM or $32.5MM in cap room after the deal to pursue a high-level free agent, depending upon timing and Davis’ willingness to waive his $4MM trade bonus, ESPN salary cap expert Bobby Marks tweets.

The trade cannot be officially finalized until after the new league year begins in July. It may be even be completed as late as July 30 — newly-drafted players can be traded immediately without signing a rookie scale contract, but if they sign that contract, they aren’t eligible to be dealt for 30 days. Waiting those 30 days would be advantageous to the Lakers for cap-related reasons, as Marks notes (via Twitter).

The Lakers still don’t have quite enough cap room to max out a free agent like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker but they’re close to it, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Naturally, one of those free agents might take a little less to form a superstar trio in Los Angeles or the Lakers could make other moves to clear more cap room. Walker will be the Lakers’ top free agent target, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.

Boston refused to part with its top young player, forward Jayson Tatum, in trade talks with the Pelicans, Stein add in another tweet. That put the Lakers in the driver’s seat for Davis’ services.

With Ball and Hart joining Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans have greatly enhanced their backcourt. They now have the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in Thursday’s draft. It’s a slam dunk they’ll select Duke forward Zion Williamson with the top pick and theyll get another high-level prospect, unless they have another trade in the works. Williamson and Ingram should be a formidable duo at the forward spots and the Pelicans can now concentrate on bringing in another big man to make all the other pieces work.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.