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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Basketball

Magic Johnson in favor of Lakers bringing D’Angelo Russell back

Trading D’Angelo Russell was one of the first moves Magic Johnson made when he took over the Los Angeles Lakers’ basketball operations department, but the former executive’s opinion of Russell has clearly changed over the past two seasons.

Russell is coming off a breakout season with the Brooklyn Nets in which he was named an All-Star, and there has been speculation that the Lakers will be interested in signing him as a restricted free agent next month. Johnson, who openly criticized Russell’s leadership abilities after trading him following the 2016-17 season, told Bill Oram of The Athletic on Monday that he is all for the Lakers trying to bring the point guard back.

“He’s better now,” Johnson said. “He’s a different player. He’s more mature. … Now he’s ready. He’s much more mature. I said the only thing, he was immature back then. He could always score, but the guys would never play with him because of what he did. But now all those guys are gone and he’s on another level now.”

Johnson was referring to the drama that unfolded between Russell and Nick Young. Russell leaked a video on social media in which Young was talking about cheating on his ex-fiancee Iggy Azalea, and there were reports that Russell’s relationship with his teammates deteriorated after that.

Some will say Johnson should have ridden that out instead of giving up on a talented No. 2 overall pick, but Magic thought he was changing the culture in Los Angeles at the time. We all know how that worked out.

For what it’s worth, a remark Russell made before he was traded seems to indicate the Lakers have assembled his dream roster over the past year. If the Nets end up signing Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Durant, a reunion between Russell and the Lakers seemed like a legitimate possibility.

John Wall says he is ready to take big step in Achilles rehab

John Wall

John Wall is expected to miss most — if not all — of the 2019-20 season after he suffered a torn Achilles back in February, but the Washington Wizards star sounds like he is maintaining a positive mindset while he works his way back.

Wall spoke with NBC Sports Washington on the red carpet at the NBA Awards on Monday night, and he said he is about to take a big step in his rehab when he is cleared to resume jogging in the next few weeks.

“I’m about to start jogging in like two weeks,” Wall said. “But (right now) it’s just riding a bike. I get to do exercises standing up now, don’t have to sit down. I’m able to move, do ladder steps, those types of things. I’m just taking my time and progressing and making sure I’m doing things the right way so I don’t force myself back and have another injury.”

Wall tore his Achilles in a freak accident at home, but he had previously undergone surgery in January to address what was referred to as a “chronic Achilles tendon injury in his left heel,” among other issues. Wall developed an infection after that surgery, and doctors discovered the rupture of his Achilles at that point. Given all that has gone wrong for him in the past several months, you can understand why he wants to take things slow.

Wall has found some productive ways to spend his time while recovering, and all he can do is follow the advice of his doctors and not push it. There’s a good chance he isn’t going to play at all next season, so he might as well do everything by the book.

Mavericks reportedly believe they will get meeting with Kawhi Leonard

The Dallas Mavericks have not been mentioned as one of the teams that have a legitimate chance to sign Kawhi Leonard this summer, but the NBA Finals MVP may be interested in hearing what they have to say.

NBA reporter Chris Sheridan says he was told by a source close to the Mavs that the team expects to sit down with Leonard for a meeting when free agency begins next month.

Will that amount to anything? You never know. The Mavericks have an exciting young core in place with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, so adding Leonard would certainly make them a title contender. However, Leonard probably wants to play in a bigger market like Los Angeles or New York. If not, he might as well just stay with the Toronto Raptors for at least another year.

Leonard will probably meet with at least a handful of teams when free agency begins, but there have been indications that he has already narrowed his decision down to two. While that could change if a surprise team like the Mavs blows him away with a presentation, we wouldn’t count on it.

Watch: Doc Rivers seemed stunned to not win Coach of the Year

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers had one of his best seasons as a coach this past year given what he was able to accomplish with a roster that was gutted of all of its star players, and many felt the success of the Los Angeles Clippers was enough to warrant Coach of the Year honors. Rivers may have felt that way, too.

After the Coach of the Year Award went to Mike Budenholzer at the NBA Awards on Monday night, Rivers looked genuinely stunned. It may have been a coincidence, but his face was that of a man who believed he was snubbed.

Rivers inherited a Clippers team with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. All three are gone now, and he still managed to lead the team to a 48-win season last year. LA also won two playoff games before being bounced by the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. Rivers did a lot with very little, which is why you could have made a case for him winning the award over Budenholzer.

If it makes Doc feel any better, at least he wasn’t roasted while also being overlooked for the award. James Harden can tell him all about what that is like.

Mark Cuban takes funny shot at Lakers amid Davis trade

Mark Cuban

There is still no love lost between Mark Cuban and the Los Angeles Lakers.

At the 2019 NBA Awards Show on Monday, the Dallas Mavericks owner spoke with the LA Times’ Arash Markazi, who asked for his reaction to LeBron James and Anthony Davis teaming up on the Lakers.

“I just hope history repeats itself with the Lakers and their dream teams,” Cuban replied with a smile.

Of course, the Lakers had their last superteam attempt in 2012-13 implode spectacularly when a unit led by Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and Pau Gasol barely even made the playoffs before getting swept in the first round by San Antonio. Going back even further than that, the Lakers’ previous superteam in 2003-04 also failed to live up to expectations when their core of Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton got dominated in the NBA Finals by a Detroit Pistons side with significantly less star power.

The Lakers have been a hated Western rival for as long as Cuban has owned the Mavs, and he continues to make no secret of his utter disdain for them.

Watch: Hasan Minhaj took ruthless shot at James Harden at NBA Awards

James harden

James Harden had a disappointing night at the NBA Awards show when he did not take home MVP honors, and that was hardly the biggest insult he faced throughout the evening.

Harden made it obvious he was not going to win his second straight MVP Award when he did not show up for the event. In making that choice, he also gave the presenter of the award, comedian Hasan Minhaj, some easy material to roast the Houston Rockets star. Minhaj listed off several great players who were in attendance before noting that Harden did not show up “in classic playoff fashion.”

That’s cold.

For what it’s worth, MVP Award winner Giannis Antetokounmpo also struggled in the playoffs, and that’s one of the main reasons his Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. Still, Harden kind of set himself up for that one by no-showing.

The Rockets made it clear that they totally disagree with Giannis winning MVP, but finishing in second may have been the least hurtful thing that happened to Harden.

PJ Tucker takes shot at Rudy Gobert for winning Defensive Player of the Year

Rudy Gobert

Monday was not a good night for the Houston Rockets on social media or at the NBA Awards show.

Star guard James Harden came in second place in MVP voting, losing to Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Houston Rockets’ Twitter account did not take that result well.

The saltiness continued with PJ Tucker taking a shot Rudy Gobert after he won Defensive Player of the Year. After Gobert won the award, Tucker posted a note on his Instagram Story saying “Really … if you cry enough” and included some face palm emojis.

That seems to be a reference to Gobert crying after being snubbed for the All-Star Game, which is something Warriors players took shots at him for. It seems other NBA players haven’t forgotten and are still making jokes at his expense.