Johnson beat Bird to it. The phone call lasted less than five minutes, consisted mostly of small talk and might have touched only briefly on the fate of Indiana star Paul George. “I wasn’t motivated to move Paul George at the deadline,” Bird said. “I can’t remember if it was even brought up or not. I don’t think it was. It’s all fake news anyway. You know that. Somebody’s gonna start it and [it] just was a snowball effect. [The phone call] was not about Paul George.”
His advice for Johnson is to understand that. “You can put a team together, what you think’s gonna be a pretty solid team on paper, and then when they get out there they don’t mesh well,” Bird said. “I’m sort of going through that this year. We thought we had a decent team that we thought could compete for the fourth or fifth seed. We haven’t played as well as I thought we would all year. That’s the growing pains. That’s the frustration about it.”
May 26, 2022 | 12:37 pm EDT Update
And the Rivers rumors? Seems the players, and perhaps general manager Rob Pelinka, too, would rather see an experienced, win-now coach on the sidelines. “If LeBron could pick,” the executive said, “it’s pretty certain he’d pick Doc.” The exec was quick to point out that the Lakers had hoed to be united on the coaching front, considering their last foray into a coaching hire, in 2019, was bungled. The team pursued Ty Lue then but would not meet his contract request, and lost out on Monty Williams to Phoenix almost at the same time. Recently fired coach Frank Vogel was the Lakers’ third choice.
Most of the front office, it seems, has zeroed in on Darvin Ham, with former head coaches Terry Stotts (Portland) and Kenny Atkinson (Brooklyn) also in the mix. Ham was briefly an assistant with the Lakers, and according to league sources, he is the favorite of the Phil Jackson-Kurt Rambis layer of Lakers decision-makers. “I think those guys want a young coach they can mold a little bit,” one Western Conference executive told Heavy.com. “I do not think Darvin is a pushover by any means. I just think that they want a guy they can point in the direction they want to go, more traditional basketball, using Russell Westbrook a certain way.”
“A lot of teams would rather have that Detroit pick than the Dallas pick, you have more flexibility with second-rounders and they won’t be that far apart,” one GM told Heavy.com. “If they can make a pick swap only, and it costs them the Dallas pick next year and the Detroit second-rounder, it is a lot to give up, but that could land them in the Top 4. It is a significant move for them.”
Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice reported this week that the Nets are expected to defer their right to the Sixers’ first-round pick (No. 23 this year) to instead register in next year’s draft, and sources around the league confirmed that with Heavy.com. That does not mean it’s likely that the Nets will make that pick next season, though. It could be a valuable trade chip.
“There is too much for them to figure out to be able to make that pick this year,” one NBA source told Heavy.com. “They want young players to bring into the mix, Sean Marks wants to draft guys. But he’s got to think about winning a championship while he can. If you can put off that decision, it’s the right thing.”
During an interview Wednesday on the Stoney & Jansen Show, Lakers legend and Hall of Famer James Worthy, a three-time NBA champ, was asked what he thinks of today’s game and its heavy reliance on the three. And Worthy said the NBA has been diminished by “the rush of guys not going to college” — or at least not going for more than a year. “I mean, Kareem had four years with John Wooden, Michael Jordan and I had three years with Dean Smith, Isiah (Thomas) had some years with Bobby Knight. So you learned the fundamentals,” Worthy said. “Not only that, you learned how to live. You learned how to balance your freaking checkbook in college, there’s a lot of things. When you don’t get that, guys are coming to the NBA who are not fundamentally sound. All they do is practice threes, lift weights, get tattoos, tweet and go on social media. That’s it.
“So you don’t have that sound player; you have an athletic player. And that’s what’s happening to the game. It’s a lot of ISO and looking for mismatches. Bill Russell told me one time, they had five options off of one play. You don’t see that anymore.”
Worthy was also asked what’s wrong with his former team after LeBron James and the high-priced Lakers missed the playoffs two years removed from winning it all. “The Lakers, I think they have refused to build over the years,” Worthy said. “We’ve had some good players: (Brandon) Ingram, (Julius) Randle, (Lonzo) Ball. We have tried to win quickly. In Kobe’s last few years, we brought in (Steve) Nash who was a little bit older, Dwight Howard came in with a back injury. We traded away draft picks to try to win immediately and I think they’re going to have really think about how they need to build.