NBA rumors: Magic Johnson stepping down as Lakers president

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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.”

http://twitter.com/AlexKennedyNBA/status/1095394302744764417
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.
We asked if the injury scare increased Magic's sense of urgency in getting another superstar to the Lakers -- to which he replied, "Nope. Nope. Nope." So, what's the message to the rest of the Lakers who will have to soldier on without LeBron? "Play hard, play together, play Laker basketball." As for LeBron's return date, Magic wasn't specific -- saying James is "taking a little time."
In between tipoff and the final buzzer, there were flashes of Wade turning back the clock and plenty of cheers. He received a standing ovation upon entering the game off the bench in the first quarter, and later was the subject of a tribute video.
Walton proceeded to say it was not uncommon for him to meet with Johnson, Pelinka and controlling owner Jeanie Buss. “This is not new,” Walton said. “Like all of the sudden there is some emergency meeting.”
Buss remains supportive not just of Walton, a source said, but also of the power structure of Johnson, Pelinka and Walton. Walton has been in his job for two-plus seasons, outlasting the Lakers’ three previous coaches. After last summer’s overhaul, however, he is really eight games into a new gig. Yes, his lineups have been scattershot, and he has utilized several that he will likely never go back to. But isn’t that the natural process when the front office gave him a roster that was haphazardly assembled and two key players punched their way to the sideline?
Yet according to a source with knowledge of Johnson’ thinking, his frustration wasn’t rooted in the early Lakers results as much as it was the lack of perceived identity on both ends of the floor. As he sees it, there hasn’t been nearly enough progress when it comes to establishing a system (the Lakers are eighth in offensive rating and 21st in defensive rating thus far). That’s the key word to be remembered here – system – and it’s perfectly ambiguous in the kind of way that might keep Walton up at night as this season wears on.
Tania Ganguli: Magic Johnson was angry in the meeting he had with Luke Walton (first reported by @Adrian Wojnarowski and @Dave McMenamin) but he doesn't make rash decisions. Several sources told me and @Brad Turner that Luke Walton's job is not in danger. Further, ownership still very much believes in him.
Mike Trudell: Walton said he meets with Magic, Rob and Jeanie all the time, but isn’t going to relay specific conversations about specific meetings. To summarize his general feeling, he said: “I feel like I have a great relationship with management … I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere.”

http://twitter.com/taniaganguli/status/1058439142479081472
Despite Johnson's prior proclamations of needing to allow time for Walton to develop a young roster surrounding four-time MVP LeBron James, evidence is mounting that Walton's job security ultimately depends upon his ability to significantly improve upon a 3-5 to start the season. Johnson's aggressive meeting tone circulated to individuals throughout the organization, including to principal owner Jeanie Buss, league sources said. Throughout his tenure with the Lakers, Johnson has earned an internal reputation for an often-time volatile management style, including with his handling of Walton and the coaching staff, sources said.
Although Johnson did follow it up with this: “I’ve already been fined enough.” We’ll see if the NBA agrees, although the following defenses would seem to work in Johnson’s favor: He never said anyone’s name, so maybe he’s just a fake jersey photoshop image enthusiast! He may have just been admiring the graphic design work.
Rondo, meanwhile, says the Lakers have been perhaps the most player-friendly organization he has been a part of. "I mean, this is definitely a players-first organization," Rondo said. "I can't say it's not the best I've ever played for, as far as the staff, they're great. They're always very welcoming when you come in the door. We just speak all the time. They're very polite. They ask if we can do anything for you. From Magic [Johnson], to Rob [Pelinka], they're always around just trying to encourage you. "Or whatever you may need as a player, they're always willing to give it to you or find a way to help you. So, off the court, on the court, getting pulled over by police, TMZ, I mean anything. They're always there to try to figure out a rescue or make things better for their team and their players and the organization."
There was a non-fictional inspiration fueling her decision-making process, too, one that was far more personal for Jeanie: Her ex-fiance’ and former Lakers coach, Phil Jackson, who won five of his record 11 titles with Bryant at his side. Jeanie had learned from Jackson’s mistakes in New York, where he took that job as the head of the Knicks front office in March of 2014 and was fired three years later after, as she saw it, he fell prey to the internal politics that have plagued that franchise for decades. “He should’ve made sure (to control) who was surrounding him, because the people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back,” she continued. “And so, I had not thought of it that way (with the Lakers situation). I was trying to do the least amount of change.”
But the Magic trick wouldn’t work, Bryant told her, unless she went all the way. “Jeanie, your father gave you the last word for a reason,” Bryant told her during their meeting. “You have to respect that wish as well. He gave you that final hammer to make the really tough, tough decisions. And sometimes, at some point, you have to step into that limelight and make those decisions. …You’ve got two ways of doing it. You can let it continue to fester and remove it piece by piece, or you just say, ‘To hell with this, we’re turning over a new leaf. I just brought Magic on, and I want to turn things around. I want to send a message, and off we go.'” Adds Bryant: “At some point, the mother of dragons just has to accept the fact that she has three big-ass dragons. Jeanie has always been reluctant to take the reins. I think she was very concerned or conscious about respecting her father’s wishes, of how responsibility of the team management would divvy up, and I could tell it had always been something that was kind of hamstringing her a little bit.”
When Jeanie posted an Instagram video of her debut stand-up comedy act on Sept. 6, you never would have known the true meaning of it all. At first glance, the 57-year-old was simply sharing a personal moment in which she took great pride. It was, it seemed, a charming and admirable attempt to broaden her horizons. In truth, it was more than that. It was an unofficial part of a therapy session that has been helping her for decades. “This is the first time I’ve talked (about it),” Jeanie explained. “I knew that once I did the comedy, and I posted it, and people knew that was something I was doing, I’d be asked about it. And I thought it was a good way for me to bring up how comedy is a way for you to talk about the things that are bothering you. And that’s what therapy is.
So Bryant told her, “Cut it all out at once. I know it’s hard to do, but if you want to turn this ship around, and turn it around sooner rather than later, then you’ve got to make those hard decisions.” Especially if the Lakers primary free agency target was the greatest player in the game. “Jeanie, I know who we’re trying to get; we know who we’re trying to get, so that player is not going to come here with all of this shit going on. It’s not going to happen,” Bryant told her. “So if you do want to have that focus, and go after that player, then I’m telling you that you’ve gotta clean house, and you’ve gotta just reshuffle the deck and start anew. You have the new practice facility (the UCLA Health Training Center) that we’re just moving into (in the summer of 2017). We’ve got new management, and off we go. But that player is not coming here unless you do that.
“As a player, it’s like, listen, it’s a cultural thing. You’ve got to have the right culture around, especially for him at this stage of his career,” Bryant explained. “You don’t want to come to a team and deal with a bunch of bullshit, right? You don’t want to come here and be part of an organization where the walls are talking and stuff is getting out left and right and you have this camp and that camp. You don’t want to do that. So I said, ‘You’ve got to start anew.’”
The Los Angeles Lakers have hired Kurt Rambis as Senior Basketball Advisor, it was announced today by President of Basketball Operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson. In his role, Rambis will report to Johnson and support the basketball operations and coaching staffs in their day-to-day functions.
“As a member of the Showtime Lakers, Kurt is a champion and knows how to win,” said Johnson. “He has been an integral part of the Lakers organization winning four NBA championships as a player and an additional four as a part of the staff. His insights and wide range of experiences will be a huge benefit to our operations.”
Pelinka explained how his time as an agent helped him make the Lakers attractive place to James and other players on “The Official Lakers Podcast”: “I think in addition to Kobe, just working as a player representative for all those years, it kind of let me into the mindset of what the players want from the franchises they’re playing for. What are the important things? Because I would hear all the complaints, like ‘Hey this team needs to do this better or that better.’ And I would witness the strengths because strengths aren’t complained about.”
Mike Trudell: Magic said Rondo has been terrific in 5-on-5’s. Didn’t want to play on LeBron’s team, but wanted to run the other team. Within one of the scrimmages, Magic added that Svi barely missed a shot. Thinks he hit 6 straight 3’s.
Mike Trudell: Magic noted that this team is going to run, period. Doesn’t want it to just be on LeBron to control. He noted several players (Rondo, Lonzo, B.I., Lance, etc.) that can push it. Pelinka added: “We want this team to have a lot of engine thrust, and not just from one player.”
Kyle Goon: Magic says Kentavious Caldwell-Pope "looks like a different guy." Also says Kyle Kuzma has grown a lot. "He got mad because he wasn't in the top 100."
Tania Ganguli: "We're very happy," Magic Johnson says when asked about the center position. Talks about how the game has changed and says he'll leave things up to Luke Walton. Mentions Beasley and McGee.
This rumor is part of a storyline: 850 more rumors
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November 30, 2020 | 3:12 pm EST Update
The Denver Nuggets have signed guard Markus Howard to a two-way contract, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly announced today. Howard, 5-11, 180, went undrafted in the 2020 NBA draft after a prolific four-year career at Marquette University. In 29 games (all starts) as a senior in 2019-20, Howard led the nation in scoring, averaging 27.8 points per game, adding 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists, shooting 44.4% from the field and 41.2% from three in 33.2 minutes. He was unanimously named to the 2019-20 All-America First Team.
Storyline: Two-Way Contracts
November 30, 2020 | 2:40 pm EST Update
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