LeBron James was stunned to learn of Magic Johnson's decision to step down as the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations, a source with knowledge of James' thinking told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne on Wednesday. But despite Johnson's abrupt resignation, James stands behind Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and the organization, the source told Shelburne.
The team is still assessing Johnson's decision, but general manager Rob Pelinka will stay in his job, and, if anything, his power will grow, sources told Shelburne.
Brian Windhorst: “I think Jeanie was aware that Magic might resign. I don’t think it came out of the clear blue sky. I don’t know if she knew he was going to have a press conference before the game but they definitely, from what I’ve told, after that [three-hour] meeting that they had I think it was yesterday, knew this was an option or this was something that could happen.”
Ryan Ward: Kyle Kuzma on Magic Johnson resigning as Lakers president: "To be honest, I was a little bit shocked. Just like everybody else was. It wasn't predicted. Nobody had that on their minds."
Ryan Ward: Kyle Kuzma on Magic Johnson: "For Magic, he's Magic Johnson. He doesn't need to prove to anybody anything. He just made the best decision for him. That's all you can ask and that's all anybody in this world would want to do for themselves."
Tania Ganguli: Kuzma is asked about Magic's assertion players need to grow up/media babies them. He begins: "I mean for me I will never say nothing bad about Magic. He’s theguy that gave me an opportunity to come in this league and play for this great organization." Adds that Johnson is right.
Magic Johnson: Thank you to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, General Manager Rob Pelinka, Coach Luke Walton, the Lakers players & the entire basketball operations staff for the tremendous opportunity to serve as the President of Basketball Operations for the @Lakers. I will always be a Laker for life.
Chris Grenham: Danny Ainge tells @Toucherandrich that he hasn’t reached out to Magic Johnson and he probably won’t. Said they don’t have that kind of relationship but he has a great deal of respect for Magic.
He didn’t have the professionalism to tell LeBron, a source close to James confirmed, forcing one of the greatest players of all time to learn about Johnson’s decision through the media. Never mind, as the source also confirmed, that LeBron had met with Johnson, Pelinka, and his agent, Rich Paul, on Saturday to discuss the future of the franchise without even a hint that this was coming. Three days later, Johnson was engaging in a 40-minute public therapy session with reporters that only sparked more questions about what he had done.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently gave Magic Johnson permission to fire coach Luke Walton at the conclusion of this season after being informed of Walton’s unwillingness to “bulk up" his coaching staff, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Johnson, who held an impromptu news conference outside the Lakers’ locker room Tuesday to announce his resignation as president before the team’s final game of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers, had been displeased with Walton’s ability to effectively make in-game adjustments and he felt the coaching staff lacked the experience and expertise to foster player development, sources said.
Johnson wanted to replace Walton during the season, but Buss was reluctant to venture down that road until now, sources said. The 59-year-old business mogul told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday he had the power to do what he saw fit for the franchise and said what would have transpired after exit interviews on Wednesday had nothing to do with why he made the shocking decision to resign.
Lakers Statement on Earvin "Magic" Johnson: There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson. We are deeply grateful to Magic for all that he has done for our franchise – as a player, an ambassador and an executive. We thank him for his work these past two years as our President of Basketball Operations.
Bill Oram: A glimpse of Magic Johnson’s exit, concluding with Magic telling other media members, “I want you to take care of my Michigan State guy,” @Ohm Youngmisuk. pic.twitter.com/qdljCVlqVv
Arash Markazi: LeBron James didn’t address the media and had his security try to stop reporters who came near him. LeBron on the phone: “Crazy, crazy, crazy.” Yep. pic.twitter.com/PObznj26Rd
Arash Markazi: What’s your reaction to the Magic news? JaVale McGee: “I don’t got no reaction.” Were you surprised? McGee: “Yeah.”
Tania Ganguli: Magic Johnson said Jeanie Buss will not be at today’s game. He’s going to try to see her either today or tomorrow. Regardless he will call her when he gets out of here.
Ryan Ward: Magic Johnson on stint as Lakers president: "I'm happy with what we did in 2 years. I'm not disappointed on anything I did, any trade I made. None of that.."
Ryan Ward: Magic Johnson on if Anthony Davis situation played into resignation: "No. That had nothing to do with it. We want to improve the team. That's what my job is to do, and then you guys made it like, 'Oh, the young guys..."
Adrian Wojnarowski: Luke Walton has two years left on his contract, but only next season is guaranteed, per source. Lakers hold option on 2020-21 season. Johnson planned to fire him, but stumbled into his own resignation on the way. Somehow, Walton survived Magic Johnson. He didn't see that coming.
Mark Medina: Steve Kerr respectfully declined to comment on Magic Johnson stepping down as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations.
Mark Medina: In light of Magic Johnson stepping down as the Lakers' president of basketball operations, Draymond Green asked if anything in the NBA shocks him: "Not at all. Nothing."
Chris Mannix: Magic Johnson had a three-hour meeting with @Jeanie Buss yesterday, per Johnson. They discussed the direction of the organization. He gave no indication he no longer wanted to be part of it.
Bill Oram: On Jeanie: “I think she’s going to be caught off guard. And I think she’ll be hurt by not having somebody she can trust...” Says once she sees his face she’ll understand this was the right decision for him.
Mike Bresnahan: Magic said this was his “final decision” and alluded that he couldn’t be talked out of stepping down from the job as Lakers president of basketball operations.
Mike Vorkunov: Magic Johnson is joking around, asking if he can get a job on ESPN. "I need a job." This is amazing.
Mike Bresnahan: Magic said he really enjoyed recruiting LeBron, specifically that part of the job as president of basketball operations. He maintained that the Lakers “were not that far” from other teams talent-wise. Cited injuries as the reason for the season’s downturn.
Tania Ganguli: Magic talks about D’Angelo Russell and says congratulations to him. He adds he couldn’t say that before or it would have been tampering. Also says Russell matured and that’s why he’s an All Star now.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson did not endorse anyone to fill his position but said Jeanie Buss will undoubtedly field dozens of phone calls from interested parties.
Kevin Ding: Magic on stepping down as Lakers president to return to his old life: “I’ll still help the Lakers in any way I can.”
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson is acknowledging media members, broadcasters and Staples Center employees by name as he looks out at the crowd around him.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson says the decision was not over Luke Walton’s job status. He says making this announcement, which, Jeanie Buss isn’t aware of yet, is a “monkey off my back.”
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson said he will return to community work and reaching out to players around the league to help in their development: “I’m a free bird and I can’t be handcuffed ... This is a good day.”
Tania Ganguli: “I was happier when I wasn’t the president,” Johnson says. He says his relationship with Jeanie will be better when he’s not in this position. Calls this a monkey off his back.
Tania Ganguli: “It’s hard when you love an organization like I love this organization,” Magic Johnson says as he starts to cry. “It’s hard when you love a person like I love Jeanie.” Talks about how much Jeanie loves Luke too.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson has cried, he’s laughed. He’s speaking completely off the cuff and taking any and all questions. A remarkable day in Lakers history.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Lakers coaching staff fully expected to be fired in hours after the final game of the season. They had believed they were gone for months. Now? Magic quits in public, saying he's too scared to tell Jeanie Buss face-to-face. What an embarrassing episode for a historic franchise.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson says that his position doesn’t allow him to be a statesman of the game of basketball. He says he wants to go back to his wonderful life away from this position. “I was happier when I wasn’t the president (of the Lakers)”
Tania Ganguli: Magic Johnson steps down as Lakers president. He hasn’t said it outright but is hinting strongly that he planned to fire Luke Walton and that won’t happen now. He is getting emotional and hasn’t told Jeanie yet he says.
Chris Haynes: Magic Johnson says he likes to be free to congratulate players such as Russell Westbrook when he hit the 20–20-20 mark. Says he couldn’t be himself and he hasn’t informed Jeanie Buss yet.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Since taking over as president of the Lakers, Magic Johnson never fully committed to the job. Often he was traveling and away from the team. His office hours were limited. He didn't do a lot of scouting. Running an NBA team takes a tremendous commitment of time and energy.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson is conducting an impromptu press conference and just stepped down as Lakers president. He said he loves Jeanie Buss like a sister.
When Kuzma went to Charlotte for All-Star Weekend to participate in the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge, he sought an audience with Pelinka. Kuzma and his people came away from their chat feeling reassured, a source close to the situation told The Athletic. Pelinka told the second-year forward that he was key to the Lakers’ future and that, unless it was a trade for one of the game’s three best players, he wasn’t trading him. A year earlier, Larry Nance Jr. approached Pelinka with a similar question. Nance Jr. and his fiancée, his college girlfriend, were interested in buying a house. He wanted to get a sense of whether the Lakers planned on keeping him around, and Pelinka told him that the Lakers would only trade him if it meant landing one of the game’s three best players. He told him to buy the house, multiple sources confirmed.
One version of events that circulated within the Lakers’ walls — and does not bode well for Walton’s future — suggested that it was the coach’s desire to play James off the ball more that inspired the team’s emphasis on playmakers. A source with knowledge of Walton’s thinking vehemently refuted the assertion, indicating that the sequence of events has been unfairly flip-flopped: Walton was given all these players who weren’t strong shooters but could handle the ball, and thus had no other choice but to find a way to play LeBron off the ball more. Other sources said the coaching staff was not consulted about potential targets in free agency, and that Walton was only looped in very late in the process.
At one point, some in Walton’s circles feared Paul was trying to use the Davis situation to leverage a coaching change, with the premise being that his arrival would require a higher-caliber coach. But the Lakers received backchannel information that Davis liked Walton and that relieved pressure on the third-year head coach.
Once the trade deadline was over and Davis remained in New Orleans, the trust issues that sprung up as a result of the very public talks remained. Johnson joined the team two days after the Feb. 7 deadline in Philadelphia, but his message, delivered 30 minutes before tipoff, seemed to be poorly received. Sources described players rolling their eyes at Johnson. They had gone days without hearing from the front office and the message from management now was, essentially, that they needed to toughen up. The Lakers lost in Philly that night, and again in Atlanta against the lowly Hawks.
This season, Pelinka, the general manager, took a proactive role in sitting in on coaches’ meetings and even requested the Lakers change the way their scouting reports were packaged for players, according to multiple sources. While a GM collaborating with a coaching staff on how to present information may not be without precedent, this was seen by those on the ground as another example of Pelinka unnecessarily meddling in low-level affairs.
Foremost in the bumbling was the Lakers front office, which was behind the curve in wisdom, poise, awareness and, shockingly, effort. Magic Johnson isn’t actually a full-timer in the usual NBA sense. He’s rarely in the Laker office, big-footing the process like Michael Jordan in Charlotte. Not that there aren’t other head guys with light schedules but they have No. 2 guys who take up the slack. Johnson’s GM Rob Pelinka is a bright guy but like Magic, isn’t a regular on the scouting trail, or wasn’t until they realized they were looking at a lottery pick instead of the playoffs.
The phone call still bothers Andrew Bogut nearly 15 months later. Then, Bogut learned the Los Angeles Lakers would cut him four days before his contract would become guaranteed. Normally such an incident would be chalked up to the business of professional sports. To Bogut, the Lakers breached an unwritten agreement he said he had reached with their front office so long as he remained healthy. “The Lakers told me I’d be there the whole year,” Bogut said. “They went against their word and waived me at the deadline. Whatever. That was their decision.”
Bogut did not travel with the Warriors (53-24) for Thursday’s game against the Lakers (35-43), as part of the team’s plan to rest its veterans on parts of back-to-backs. Even if he had gone on the trip, though, it does not appear Bogut would shake hands with the Lakers’ president of basketball operations (Magic Johnson) and their general manager (Rob Pelinka) for a simple reason. “I was basically lied to,” Bogut said.
Not enough time has passed, though, for Bogut to soften his frustrations about his brief stint with the Lakers. “It was a young team and the roster was kind of all over the place,” Bogut said. “Now obviously they got LeBron [James] and their own issues they are dealing with. It was definitely an interesting organization to be a part of after coming from Golden State. It’s just different. It’s ran differently.”
James turns 35 in December. He has three years left on this contract. He has no time to waste. "So it's very critical to me and my future," James says of acquiring another star, as he stops midway down the Garden ramp. "And I'm positive and very optimistic that Magic and Rob and the franchise will be great." James has heard the speculative chatter—that other stars don't want to join him. That they'd have to sacrifice too much to play with him. That the Lakers have lost their magical charm. "They got me," James retorts, laughing. "I'm very confident. And I'm confident that players want to play with me. I'm very confident in that."
While Buss has been an ardent backer of Walton, she has also empowered Johnson, who has been less resolute in his support. His efforts have all worked against his coach rather than with him. After delivering James in July, Johnson ignored the pleas of the coaching staff that he retain Brook Lopez and Julius Randle. Instead, he signed controversial and limited journeymen JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson. When a fiery early season meeting between Johnson and Walton became public, Johnson responded not by saying he supported Walton but that he would allow him to “finish the season.” After the season? All bets would presumably be off.
Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo will not be fined or disciplined for sitting in a courtside seat removed from his teammates late in the Lakers' 115-99 loss Wednesday to the Denver Nuggets, sources told ESPN. Rondo met with Lakers president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka on the team's off day Thursday to discuss his seat choice and how it was perceived.
"They notified me that it was a league rule that you can't sit there," Rondo told ESPN. "I wasn't aware of it. But now I know going forward where I need to be." Rondo estimated he sat in a seat separate from the bench "eight, 10 times this year" when speaking to reporters after the game. "I've done it (before)," he said. "I've sat everywhere but the bench more than 40 seconds. But I guess when things aren't going well you can kind of continue to make up stories. But I never thought it was a big deal. I was just in my head contemplating the game. That's kind of what I do. I don't think I have to explain myself as far as my relationship with the team, the players and the coaches. That shouldn't even be discussed."
Rondo pushed back on the assumption that his choice of seat had anything to do with being upset over playing time. "I still don't understand why we're talking about it but we are," Rondo said. "A.C. and those guys did a hell of a job playing. I broke down film for two hours last night. I mean, I don't know what people want. After a loss, I'm still trying to figure it out. But it is what it is. People are going to say what they say."
So you want to become an NBA general manager someday… Antawn Jamison: Yeah. Eventually, leading a front office and getting the opportunity to put all the pieces together would be the ideal job.
Antawn Jamison: Well, the most important thing in today’s generation is winning. It’s all about winning. I think in the past, especially when I played, it was more about the destination and the market. But these guys can play in Alaska and still have unbelievable marketing and sell just about anything. Now, these guys are like, “Look, we love LA. We’re there in the offseason. But I want to know if we can win.” That’s why the Buss family and Magic and Rob are doing what they’re doing. We get it. We can’t off of the banners and past championships anymore. And instead of talking about putting more banners up there, we need to do everything possible to actually put more up there.
Antawn Jamison: Magic and those guys are going full force; they have their foot on the gas pedal and they’re trying to get people in there. And you can just tell that, of course, when you have LeBron James on your team, it makes it that much easier. And he’s doing a great job as far as bringing attention and bringing guys there. It should be fun and I’m excited to see what the future holds, especially in the next couple years.
The former, make no mistake, isn’t earning the same type of approval ratings as the latter. And when it comes to his chosen managerial style, Johnson has left all sorts of well-respected people—agents, coaches, rival executives and players alike— scratching their heads with his abrasive ways.
On Feb. 21, 2017, Kupchak’s 92-year-old mother was visiting from New York. That morning, two days before the NBA’s trade deadline, Kupchak received the call informing him that he had been fired along with Jim Buss and John Black, the team’s longtime head of public relations. “I kind of knew that the situation was tenuous,” Kupchak said. “There was a lot going on. … It was a challenge. And nothing lasts forever, so I really was not that surprised.” Soon, he was in the car with his mother and sister, navigating the 405 Freeway toward LAX. “I had to take them to the airport like an hour after I got the phone call, so that was tough for them,” he said.
The Lakers front office was now in the hands of Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Kupchak’s former teammate with the Showtime Lakers. Kupchak checked in on his former colleagues who remained in place to explain what happened. “He called me and told me that morning,” said former Lakers assistant GM Glenn Carraro, who has since made a fresh start of his own by opening a pizzeria in Hollywood. “I was on my way to work. Everything that was going on, he felt that, ‘Hey, it’s business as usual.’ He just wanted to make sure I held down the fort and got everyone up to speed. So, I don’t think there was any animosity. He wanted to make sure we still did the right thing even though he wasn’t there anymore.”
They had to do that with a wounded Kobe Bryant, who sustained three season-ending injuries in his final four seasons. While rehabbing from a torn Achilles in November 2013, Bryant signed a two-year contract extension worth $48.5 million. More than five years later, Kupchak still defended the hefty contract. “We were lucky to have Kobe for his last two years,” Kupchak said, “because he really was a great distraction considering we were going through a rebuild and losing games. It was kind of like we were rebuilding under cover, but it was a rebuild.”
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are all on the same page regarding Walton being the coach for the rest of the season, the people said. Buss especially wants to give Walton every opportunity to succeed, one person said. “Nothing is going to happen with Luke,” that person said. “There hasn’t even been any talk about it and there won’t be any talks about it. Luke will definitely finish the season and he has the full support. So any talk in the media or on social media can be put to bed about Luke. He’s not going anywhere. There has been no conversation about it.”
Alex Kennedy: NBA's official statement on Magic Johnson/Ben Simmons situation: pic.twitter.com/nUhv5G6c8M
Kyle Goon: Here’s what Lakers team president Magic Johnson said about whether the team was entering good faith negotiations. The question was not specifically phrased about New Orleans, but it was implied. “No. ... But at the end of the day, what happened happened.” pic.twitter.com/1Jahd32ZmF
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson on if the Lakers’ lack of success with New Orleans could effect his team’s approach moving forward: “That’s not going to change our plans this summer. It’s a great (free agency) class and we just want to get one of them.”
Ohm Youngmisuk: Asked if the Lakers are worried that relationships with the players have been fractured due to the trade rumors, Rob Pelinka says Magic Johnson, Luke Walton and himself have "really close relationships" with the players and that all players "understand there is a business component" to playing in the NBA.
Ohm Youngmisuk: Rob Pelinka says he doesn't think there was a "shift" in thinking of the assembling of the roster when the Lakers built the roster around playmakers and felt there was enough shooting on the team this summer. Pelinka says injuries forced the Lakers to adjust. Pelinka called the addition of more shooting is more of a tweak and a "smart response to the events that unfolded but definitely not a shift."
Sensing that the Lakers have been weighed down by the persistent trade rumors over the last few weeks, Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, plans to meet with the team this weekend in Philadelphia, according to two people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Johnson wants to encourage the Lakers to stay the course and to focus on the task ahead with 27 regular-season games left to play, one person said.
Johnson will listen to every player who wants to speak, hoping to have an open dialogue with his team so they can all move forward together, one person said. The Lakers are chasing a playoff spot despite missing All-Star forward LeBron James for 17 games during the middle of the season. The Lakers (28-27) are in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, 1½ games behind the eighth-place Clippers (30-26).
As the NBA trade deadline looms within a week, the Lakers' immediate pursuit of All-Star forward Anthony Davis is fraught with obstacles -- including the fact that New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps has yet to return a call to Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, league sources told ESPN. The sluggish response time is perhaps a message that New Orleans places some responsibility on the Lakers for Davis' trade request, or perhaps an indication to Davis and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, that the franchise doesn't plan to easily acquiesce on a trade request to partner with LeBron James.
Demps is picking up his phone and returning calls -- just not from the Lakers, sources said. From Paul George to Leonard to Davis, the Lakers' front office is growing accustomed to icy receptions from teams enduring All-Star trade demands with a full year left on their contracts.
With Boston prohibited from trading for Davis this season, going to the Lakers presents Davis a chance to make something of this 2018-19 season. The Celtics and other suitors are curious as to whether the potential Lakers-or-bust stance softens once the deadline passes, sources said.
While making an appearance on ESPN’s Zach Lowe’s “The Lowe Post” podcast, Los Angeles Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss gave the Boston Celtics the highest praise possible when discussing the genesis of the Lakers’ dynasty. Buss, who has had control of the team since 2013-14, says that her father (the late Dr. Jerry Buss) bought the Los Angeles-based franchise in the 1979 in order to provide a competitive balance in the NBA. “I love… I respect the Celtics’ legacy. And really if you look at it, the Lakers are — and what Dr. Jerry Buss built with the Lakers — was really to balance the Celtics dynasty.”
Johnson can’t fire Walton unilaterally. He would need to have Buss on his side for that. Since Walton was hired in 2016, Buss has been an ardent supporter of the former Laker. She has admired his demeanor and his ability to relate to players and get them to buy in to his modern offensive system. She is commonly seen as the buffer between Walton and the impetuous Johnson, the last line of defense and reason.
November 24, 2020 | 12:38 pm EST Update
The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday they have re-signed free agent guard Fred VanVleet to a multi-year contract. Per team policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. “In the last four years, we’ve seen Fred move from leader of Raptors 905, to leader of the Bench Mob to a leader of a championship team. The constant has been his leadership, no matter his role,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said. “We look forward to the coming years with Fred as one of the voices and hearts of our team. We bet on Fred.”
Josh Lewenberg: VanVleet said he met and spent some time with Malachi Flynn in Vegas during the pre-draft process. He’s looking forward to playing with/mentoring the Raps rookie, “I like his game a lot. I think the way he plays, being able to learn under me and Kyle will be beneficial for him.”
Josh Lewenberg: VanVleet, after thanking the Raptors organization, his coaches, teammates and family: “I wanna give thanks to you ugly media people who have treated me pretty good over the last 4 years. Now that I’ve got a nice big contract don’t start s***ing on me.”
The Milwaukee Bucks have re-signed guard Pat Connaughton. Entering his sixth season in the NBA, Connaughton appeared in 67 games (4 starts) with the Bucks last season and averaged 5.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 18.6 minutes per game. Originally signed by Milwaukee prior to the 2018-19 season, Connaughton is averaging 6.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists over 128 games as a Buck while shooting 46.1% from the field the last two seasons.
Last week, the NBA had one of the busiest weeks in league history—with the draft and free agency just two days apart. “That was one of the craziest weeks ever,” Charania says. “Everything goes up, but that is by nature. The conversations and the people you communicate with, those are the same, but the volume of dialogue slightly increases. “On a normal basis,” he continues, “it might be more sporadic and the topics are more different than around free agency and the draft because these are things that are imminently happening.”
When speaking to people around the NBA about Shams, another common theme is that he doesn’t have any hidden agendas. “Shams called me out of the blue one day, asking about a player I represented and his free-agent destination,” one NBA agent tells SLAM. “At first, I was hesitant because I had no prior relationship with him, but the way he approached the situation was nothing short of professional. He ended up breaking my player’s signing. “I trust him because there are no hidden agendas. He’s just trying to break the story; he’s not worried about doing favors. He’s genuine and straightforward with his approach, which is rare in this business.”
David Maas was a magician, TV and YouTube star and, with his wife, the centerpiece of halftime entertainment in basketball arenas all over the country. Maas died on Sunday at the age of 57. According to the New York Times, Maas performed in all 30 NBA arenas, 15 WNBA arenas and at least 76 universities. He also performed at the Big Ten basketball tournament and the Final Four. Maas and his wife, Dania, were famous for the “Quick Change” act where they would perform dances and routines in one costume, then be covered by a tarp, sheet or box and emerge in another costume. In 2014, Sporting News ranked it as the best halftime show in basketball.