Even before Magic’s latest move, sources close to LeBron James expressed concern that the combination of Magic’s messy exit and all the negative Lakers headlines threatened to sabotage their summer. The challenge of convincing another elite star to come to town was already seen as daunting around the league, and now these horrendous optics make that uphill climb far worse.
Jeanie Buss had questioned Magic Johnson several times in the wake of his public resignation, asking to know if there were any issues with Rob Pelinka or anyone else in the organization. They spoke on the phone for hours. They went to a private dinner at Wally's in Beverly Hills on May 2. Multiple Lakers sources told ESPN that each time, Johnson said nothing beyond what he'd said on April 9 -- that he didn't feel like he could be Magic in this role and wanted his freedom back.
Riley and Magic won five championships together under the ownership of Jerry Buss, the father of current owner Jeanie Buss. It was the springboard of a long and illustrious career for Riley, who remains forever linked both to the Buss family and to Magic. "Surprised by his comments? No, not at all," Riley tells ESPN on Monday afternoon.
Pat Riley: "I'll tell you about Earvin -- and it's what I love about him, but also what I have cautioned him about -- he's going to speak his mind. If that's how he felt, that's how he felt. He's not going to leave a hanging curveball out there about backstabbing and whispering. He manned up today. That's who Buck is. He would never tolerate that. He never has tolerated that."
"I have thought [about returning to the Lakers] only from a sentimental standpoint," Riley says. "But I was never pursued by them. Nobody officially contacted me. I have about 20 friends wishing I would come back, but nobody asked. They had Magic. When you are in the position that Earvin was in, when you turn over the organization to somebody like him, there's only one person who can say no to you. That's your owner. It's the same for me here in Miami. If [Heat owner] Mickey Arison says no, that's it. Now, that doesn't mean I don't have power.
With the Lakers coming off their sixth straight season missing the playoffs, and still without a head coach, angry fans are holding a protest outside Staples Center Friday demanding changes. Protesters gathered around noon at the intersection of South Figueroa and West 11th streets. The organizer, fan Charlie Rivers, a University of Arizona graduate student, claims that owner Jeannie Buss has allowed nepotism to dictate the direction of the team.
Wearing the Lakers signature purple and gold and holding up a sign with an image of LeBron James, one fan told CBSLA the message is clear: the Lakers need help on the court and off. “You know what, we want a star. We want another star free agent,” he said. “KD [Kevin Durant], Kyrie [Irving].” IMGhttps://twitter.com/CBSLA/status/1126935948804206594
Marc J. Spears: Warriors forward Kevin Durant told @TheUndefeated that he was excited about his entire body of scoring work during Clippers series, not just the 50 tonight. KD says scoring will be a lot harder vs Rockets & physical defender PJ Tucker. Not worried about 1 day off between series.
Such was the case on Wednesday when the scroll during ESPN’s First Take read that the “Lakers have a lot of work to do to repair relationship with LeBron.” Turns out, LeBron was watching, and he decided to respond in real time. “That. Is. Not. Truuuue! It’s not true at all!”
One of the headaches and near-debacles of the final stretch of Johnson’s tenure came in late February. In what could have been a catastrophe, the Lakers needed to prevent point guard Lonzo Ball from undergoing a potential unauthorized surgery on his left ankle that was planned by estranged former business partner Alan Foster and with LaVar Ball’s knowledge, multiple team and league sources told The Athletic.
The Lakers found out about Ball’s situation when Lonzo Ball called General Manager Rob Pelinka, and the organization informed him that they would not allow it and could void his contract if he went through with the procedure, sources said. The Lakers then arranged transportation to bring Ball home, sources said. This could have been a disastrous moment for the Lakers, with a core player potentially undergoing a procedure that could have blindsided the organization. But Johnson and Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka communicated with those around Lonzo, working with his then-agent Harrison Gaines to squash the procedure and bring him back to Los Angeles, sources around the team with knowledge of the situation said. Gaines declined to comment when reached by phone.
Beyond the early-season meeting, communication between Walton and the front office was fraught, sources told ESPN. At one point, Pelinka sat in on coaches' meetings, involving himself at a granular level in Walton's workload. In another example, Walton went weeks without hearing a peep from Magic Johnson. Both tactics were unusual for an NBA team.
Stephen A. Smith: "Let me tell you what's going on here: Magic Johnson feels betrayed. Magic Johnson feels betrayed by folks within the Lakers' organization. Not Jeanie Buss, but folks within the Lakers' organization. He was hearing the chirping and whispering, which he alluded to in the press conference."
Ryan Ward: Josh Hart on Magic Johnson: "At the end of the day, he made a decision that he thought was best for him. We wish him all the luck. We're grateful for the two years he had with us. Wish him the best of luck. That's about it."
Sam Vecenie: Asked executives around the league last night at Hoop Summit, then again this morning in regard to Magic Johnson. General thought was “Magic doesn’t need this shit.” Basically, most executives are cognizant of the constant scrutiny and figured Magic felt ”why should I want that?”
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.
Walton, some people of Lakers prominence had suggested, had wanted to play LeBron off the ball and thus sparked all those moves that didn’t pan out. Sources with knowledge of Walton’s thinking pushed back vehemently on this suggestion – as if the public record wasn’t enough to quell the notion on its own. Walton, quite clearly, was being made out to be the fall guy.
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.”
The brain trust Buss relies on within the Lakers is fairly small. It includes Johnson and Linda Rambis, Buss’ friend and the organization’s manager of special events whose title does not accurately reflect her influence.
Rajon Rondo: Y’all are so busy analyzing what happened in the last 48 seconds of the game that y’all missed the opportunity to highlight, congratulate, and praise Lebron wholeheartedly on his accomplishment. Most of y’all have made a career out of discussing Lebron James, and y’all can’t pay the man some respect. Since y’all missed it, let me do it publicly. Congratulations Lebron on EVERYTHING. You deserve all the success and happiness that God and the Universe has to offer. Congratulations My Brother. Keep being great! 👊🏾👊🏾
Mirjam Swanson: Zubac after the Clips took care of business vs. the Knicks: "That's how we gotta be. When I was with the Lakers, we didn't have nights like this. Every game was a close game for us, but now with the Clippers, this team is really locked in, every possession against every team."
Ben Golliver: Lakers’ LeBron James after loss to Grizzlies (via @SpectrumSN): “If you’re still allowing distractions to affect the way you play, this is the wrong franchise to be a part of and you should just come in and be like, ‘Listen, I can’t do this.’”
“I’ve been in this league 40 years. A lot of players got traded on Thursday. Guess what’s going to happen next year? A lot of players going to get traded, and a lot of players will stay home. I talked to our guys. They’re in a good place. That’s all that matters.” But are they, really? That’s not the case if you talk to sources close to several key players. “Guys will be professional, but it will never be the same,” one agent who represents a Lakers player said.
Kyle Goon: Kuzma on Magic's meeting: "Everybody always preaches professionalism and buying into the team, and we’re past the trade deadline. We honestly should stop talking about it because it really doesn’t matter right now. The only thing that matters is trying to get into the playoffs. "
Kyle Goon: Occasionally, JaVale McGee seems to apply his own brand of logic when responding to a question. He didn't really get my question of how it felt to meet with Magic today: "Uh, I felt good. How am I supposed to answer that? How did I feel? Tingly inside? I don’t know." I LOL'd.
Ryan Ward: LeBron James on time it takes to mesh w/ new additions: "This is a different season. Different circumstances because we've been injured. I've was injured. We've had guys that was in & out of the lineup throughout the whole season & then we have a couple new guys coming in..
"I love our team. I love the guys," Johnson said. "It's a tough part of our business whether you're mentioned in trade talk, or you get traded. It's a tough part of professional sports, but they came together and played great against Boston. My job is to make sure we stay together as a team and stay focused on the goal, which is to make the playoffs."
"It's a part of business, it's a part of being a professional athlete," he said Saturday. "I'm going to hug `em and tell them that we got to come together and our goal is still in reach, which is to make the playoffs."
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 on trying to get the locker room to move forward from all the trade rumors involving so many players on the roster: "You can choose how to respond. Does it draw you closer or push you apart?" Pelinka hopes that the Lakers, with two new shooters, will make the playoffs and let an all-time great like LeBron James lead the Lakers far. He made a comparison to the Patriots and hoping that other role players can shine in the postseason like Julian Edelman did.
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).
The Lakers are limping into Boston after a 42 point loss to the Pacers. The obvious question after such a loss, after all those public rumors, in a game that featured LeBron’s return, is whether the players are being adversely impacted by what’s happening. “I don’t know, that’s a question for those guys,” LeBron said. “It’s just all part of the business, and when you truly understand that, and you truly know this is a business, but you give 110 percent to whatever situation you’re in, then you’re able to live with it. But I know this has to be tough on guys that for the first time in their career, especially if you’re a young guy, to hear your name in trade rumors when you’ve been somewhere for a few years.”
“I’ve never put a cap on how many years I want to be a part of this league or how many years I want to play the game of basketball," he told reporters. "I think the time will tell itself, you know, when it’s time for me or I feel like it’s time for me to stop playing. But I don’t see it in the foreseeable future.”
Kyle Goon: Michael Beasley on his statement to @YahooSports, said he's "standing up for myself." Thinks that the report of tension between him and Luke Walton should've stayed in the locker room, and he doesn't want to dwell on it -- "I left that in Golden State."
Harrison Faigen: LeBron on if the trade rumors have affected the team: “I don’t know. Obviously we have a lot of guys that have been in trade talks these last couple weeks that have never been in that position before… I know it has to be tough, especially on our young guys.”
Mike Trudell: Lance Stephenson: “I felt like our energy was down, and Indiana (took advantage).” He said trade talks “definitely” impact guys, and that while it’s tough, they’re professionals and have to focus and handle it. Can’t use it as an excuse.
Harrison Faigen: Luke said that trade rumors "affect everyone differently." He added that he's played on some teams that were able to get past them, and some that didn't show up to play.
The Los Angeles Lakers discussed the testy exchange between coach Luke Walton and several veteran players after L.A.'s Saturday loss in Golden State before turning the page to Tuesday's game against the Indiana Pacers. "We address it, because that's how I believe our culture should be," Walton said following shootaround Tuesday morning. "We'll talk about everything that needs to be [brought up]. But it wasn't a big thing. We discussed it, moved forward."
Los Angeles Lakers forward Michael Beasley released a statement to Yahoo Sports on Tuesday that disputes the reported postgame incident he allegedly had with head coach Luke Walton after Saturday night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Beasley, in addressing the situation for the first time, denies it was such a heated incident. “This past Saturday after the Warriors game, Coach Walton and our team had a conversation after a tough loss. Despite reports to the contrary, there was nothing physical between Coach Walton, me, or any other teammate,” Beasley said. “I’ve sat back in the past when stories have been twisted and misreported, but I won’t do that this time. I respect Luke and I respect this team. We are trying to win a championship together.”
Several veteran players, including Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee, had emotionally-charged verbal exchanges with Walton, snapping back toward the coach’s playing time distribution and rotations, sources said. When Walton was making his points, it was undeniable for some in the locker room that he wasn’t just referring to Beasley and McGee, sources said. For Walton, playing time and rotations have been a difficult balancing act with a roster full of young talent and veterans — needing to satisfy players throughout the roster. As one source with knowledge of the postgame locker room described: “It was a heated scene.”
Players and coaches cooled off before the incident escalated into anything physical, and there was genuine hope around the Lakers that this was what this team needed to cleanse their issues. Beasley is among players who prefer clarity on their role and to be given confidence by Walton, sources said. Beasley and Walton spoke afterward, a source said, and moved past the incident. “They needed to talk things out,” another source said. “They needed it — and it will help them.”
According to sources, Walton made his views known that the we-over-me mentality needed to be more of a priority after the 115-101 loss that came without James (due to load management related to his recent groin strain injury). JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley didn’t agree, according to sources, and pushed back vociferously on that premise.
As he left the locker after media availability time had come to an end, he carried a small Tupperware full of homemade brownies. He shared them with anyone who showed any interest, raved about how delicious they were and the kind soul who had made them for him as a gift, then wandered over to discuss the evening with veteran Lakers point Rajon Rondo.
Shams Charania: As uncertainty surrounds Lakers into deadline week, several veterans -- including Michael Beasley -- had an emotionally-charged verbal exchange with head coach Luke Walton postgame tonight, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @WatchStadium. It stopped short of turning physical.
One source described the confrontation as “small, very small.” But in the current environment, that is unlikely to keep the wolves away.
Bill Oram: JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley were indeed involved in the postgame dust-up with Luke Walton, but a source tells me Lance Stephenson was not part of it.
Ramona Shelburne: Also... doesn’t seem like @Lance Stephenson was really involved in whatever it was. In other words, go back to your Netflix
Ramona Shelburne: Texted a few folks about whatever it was that happened in Lakers lockeroom tonight. One described it as typical lockeroom stuff & said, “It never got close to getting out of control, people are always emotional after a loss.”
Beasley, who also got into a verbal spat on the sideline with Walton during the Lakers' 138-128 overtime victory in Oklahoma City just more than two weeks ago, repeatedly referred to Walton as "bro" during the exchange Saturday, which touched a nerve with the coach, a source told ESPN.
During the streak, LeBron James — who admittedly struggles at times with patience — was asked if he’s been tinkering with his leadership approach, and the 14-time All-Star revealed that he was indeed tested during the team’s early struggles. “I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”
he’s continuing to emphasize — to himself and teammates — that the journey to becoming formidable is going to take some time. “I had to regroup and remember this is a young team,” James told Yahoo Sports. “We’re playing some good ball right now and we’re starting to build some good habits. That’s all that matters right now.”
Stephen A. Smith: “As an aside, I just wanted, if you don’t mind, I just wanted to deviate away from this particular subject. I wanted to start off the show saying something — when I was in the Lakers locker room last night, Mr. Rondo directed a very disrespectful comment my way. He didn’t say it by name. I was standing right next to him. I just kept my head down because out of respect to the Los Angeles Lakers as an organization, I didn’t want to make a scene. So, I just left it at that. I just want Rondo to know I know that. Number 1. And Number 2 — I stand by my proclamation that he deserved a 15-game suspension for spitting in the face of Chris Paul. And last but not least, I just want to say out of respect for him, I would remind him … I never said anything about why he left Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Sacramento, it goes on and on. I’ll just leave it at that.
Mike Trudell: LeBron after practice today: “It’s going to take awhile for us to learn each other … it’s going to take longer than 10 games … We have to get better every day.” Noted how they still don’t know each other as closely as most of the Western teams who’ve had core players intact.
Mike Bresnahan: What does LeBron James think of the Lakers’ defense through 10 games? “In our wins, we’re great. In our losses, we’re horrible. It’s that simple,” he said.
Mike Bresnahan: Luke Walton on the importance of the Lakers’ transition defense... “The rest of our defense doesn’t matter if we don’t get back.... It’s habits and effort.”
With the Los Angeles Lakers preparing to play their first game since news emerged of coach Luke Walton's explosive meeting with president of basketball of operations Magic Johnson, LeBron James said his focus -- and his team's -- remains solely on winning. "It doesn't bother me at all because I don't pay attention to it, I don't listen to it," James said Saturday in advance of the Lakers' game against the Portland Trail Blazers when asked about the noise surrounding his team
"It actually never even gets to me really, so it's not a big deal for us," James continued. "We need to figure out how we can string together some great games or even good games and bring our win total from where it is now. Because that's the business we're in. That's the only thing we want to do. We want to be as good a team as we can be and win ball games."
Ball and Kuzma were said to have had an understanding the song was purely for entertainment. Nonetheless, the Lakers reportedly asked the players to scale back on their presence on social media and scale back with the extracurricular activities. It’s a sentiment Hart voiced to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk: “We are 22, 23-year-old kids, we are just taking little subtle jabs and that kind of thing,” Hart said as he and LA Chargers defensive end Isaac Rochell hosted a free screening of “Uncle Drew” for 200 local youth from local nonprofits like Brotherhood Crusade, Boys and Girls Club Venice and The Right Way Foundation in Los Angeles. “It is nothing more than that. We are all close off the court. And that is all it is, just messing around, having fun. We are cool off the court, we are cool on the court. That wasn’t anything.”
Brook Lopez admitted Thursday that he covered his head with a towel to vent and hide his emotions with his frustration over losing and wanting to play. Lopez left the bench shortly after that for a bathroom break but returned quickly and rooted on his teammates from the bench.
"On the court, I can be very visible, with my emotions [showing on my face]," Lopez said. "So yeah, just trying to control myself, breathe a little bit, and just keep cool because it was an unfortunate game for us. Just watching it, it was tough to be out there. Just trying to get settled a little bit."
While Lopez has not been the fit that he and the Lakers thought it could be thus far, the center says he has not had any discussions with his agent, Darren Matsubara, about the possibility of a buyout if his playing situation gets worse. "Obviously I realize it's a contract year," the California native said. "I realize my value, not just monetary value whether I would like it to be, I'd love it to be, [but] obviously, [Los Angeles is] home for me. I realize I'm in a contract year, but I'm not super concerned about it."
Tania Ganguli: Brook Lopez waved off reporters postgame. He played 9 minutes tonight, including 1:33 in the 2nd half. During the 4th he looked upset, covered his head with a towel, rubbed his eyes with it, and got up and walked off the court at the next time out, returning shortly thereafter.
Ryan Ward: Brandon Ingram: "It's kind of depressing because we think we're a better team than last year. We know we can be better every single night, but we also know it's a process. Everything is not going to be good all the time.” #Lakers
Tania Ganguli: The Lakers did not watch film of last night's 37-point loss today, like they normally would the morning after a game. Threw it out and just got set to a tough, physical practice. "It was a palate cleanser," Larry Nance Jr. said.
Bob Garcia: Luke Walton on team meeting: "It was just a creative way of trying to grow and get better that day." Also noted that having both Ingram and Kuzma dealing with injuries made it a easier choice to have a team meeting. #Lakers #lakeshow
"The choice is the Lakers," she says crisply. Whatever emotion she'd felt these past few months is long gone from her voice. The emotional sludge underlying this family drama isn't a few months old. It's 50 years old. The last three months were just the final act in a play that's been running their whole lives. "I'm really proud of my sister for putting her business hat on," Janie Buss says. "I know how hard it was. My dad's dying wish was to leave the Lakers to all of us and that we would all get along. He'd be sickened if he saw what was going on with my older brothers." (Neither Jim nor Johnny, through his lawyer, responded to repeated requests for comment.)
Jim resigned as a co-trustee and was replaced by Janie, who firmly supported her older sister; the balance of power, and with it the ability to control the management of the trust, had now shifted firmly toward Jeanie. And on April 3, the court formally granted Jeanie's petition to compel the three trustees -- now Jeanie, Janie and Johnny -- to do everything reasonable within their power to ensure she remains the Lakers' controlling owner and a board member for the rest of her life. The war was over with nary a whimper. "This was not what [Dr. Buss] wanted," Jeanie says. "But he did empower me that if there was ever a threat, that I had the power and authority to do this."
Adrian Wojnarowski: Lakers assistant GM Glenn Carraro has resigned, league sources tell @The Vertical. Carraro had been with franchise since 2000.
Ramona Shelburne: Jeanie Buss tells ESPN: "It's great that we were able to work this out so fast. We've resolved everything clearly and cleanly and now we can get back to work. Laker fans deserve success - and now we can focus again on bringing it to them. "I'm also very happy that my sister Janie is becoming a Trustee of my family's Trust. I love her, I trust her and I'm excited to work alongside her."
Ramona Shelburne: Jeanie Buss: "Now we can get back to work. Laker fans deserve success - and now we can focus again on bringing it to them."
Ramona Shelburne: Jeanie Buss: "I'm also very happy that my sister Janie is becoming a Trustee. I love her, I trust her and I'm excited to work alongside her
Four years after the death of the legendary Jerry Buss, his daughter finally, formally emerged Monday as the powerful leader of Los Angeles’ most powerful sports franchise. The Lakers are now Jeanie Buss’ team. It’s official, it’s indisputable, and it’s for as long as she wants.
Jeanie and brothers Jim and Johnny agreed to a legal stipulation, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, that Jeanie will serve as the Lakers’ controlling owner for as long as the Buss family owns the team. At the same time, Jim, who led the recent attack on Jeanie’s throne, agreed to resign as one of three trustees, surrendering that position to sister Janie, who is Jeanie’s ally. The third trustee is still Johnny, who was also part of the coup but can now count on being outvoted if he decides to challenge his sister again.
Adam Streisand, Jeanie’s attorney who has rescued both local NBA teams after earlier navigating the sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer, said the message is clear. “I can’t imagine a more important symbol for Los Angeles pride than the L.A. Lakers,” said Streisand in an interview with The Times. “Now with the Lakers having the ability to focus on the basketball court and not the legal court, I think all Laker fans can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Once the Lakers gathered in the locker room, Coach Luke Walton did not just express his displeasure with his team’s play. He became so disgusted with the Lakers’ 30-point halftime deficit to the Clippers on Tuesday that he informed his starters they would begin the second half on the bench. Walton then turned to rookie forward Brandon Ingram. “It (stinks) for you that you have to sit out, too,” Walton said. “You’re out there playing your tail off.”
Last April, Gary Vitti retired from his full-time post as the NBA’s longest-tenured head athletic trainer, but he signed on to remain a consultant for two more seasons, in part to continue researching new technologies that might help not just heal injuries but hopefully prevent them altogether.
But ever since the team’s dramatic front-office overhaul Feb. 21, when Lakers governor Jeanie Buss fired her brother, Jim, and general manager Mitch Kupchak and promoted Johnson to president of basketball operations, Vitti has been noticeably absent. According to sources close to the franchise, prior to Feb. 21, Vitti had been seen at every home game save for one and at the facility about four days a week when the team wasn’t on the road -- but since the regime change, those sources say, Vitti hasn’t been seen at any games, practices, anything.
Vitti issued the following comment to ESPN regarding his status with the Lakers: “I worked more than half of my life for the Lakers, and I can honestly look at myself in the mirror and say I gave every ounce that I had every day. I will forever be grateful to [the late Lakers owner and patriarch] Dr. [Jerry] Buss, a man I believe exemplified what I believe to be the trifecta of the most important human values: honesty, kindness and loyalty. Going forward, it's not my team so Jeanie can do what she thinks is best.”
July 3, 2022 | 4:06 pm EDT Update
July 3, 2022 | 3:20 pm EDT Update
Brooklyn insists that talks are only preliminary at this point, but Chris Haynes’ report Saturday that the Nets and Lakers have discussed a Kyrie Irving trade only fueled what is already a widespread expectation that Irving is destined to end up with the Lakers. I certainly believe that, too. I know Irving has been in Los Angeles this week, but that’s not the source of my confidence. It stems from repeated rumbles in circulation that LeBron James is rooting hard for Irving’s addition to the roster. James, I’m told, wants to see Irving in Lakerland more than anyone. What other team, furthermore, has a LeBron-sized personality with the experience to cope with all the chaos that comes with adding Kyrie? James, remember, has often thrived in chaos.
The Kevin Durant Trade Sweepstakes should keep the NBA’s Transaction Game at the forefront of discussion far longer than this summer’s marketplace was projected to entertain us. Sixty done deals and 10 contract extensions, after all, were already reported entering Sunday’s Day 4. Everyone on the NBA map knows that Brooklyn is prepared to accede to Durant’s trade request in what is widely expected to pan out as a blockbuster involving three (or more) teams. It just might not come to fruition as quickly as the masses hope, with Durant under contract for the next four seasons and the Nets thus possessing almost all of the leverage. Brooklyn is incentivized to be a bit patient to ensure it secures the optimal trade package for the ages.