Magic Johnson confirmed on Sunday that he spoke with Kawhi Leonard about the possibility of the NBA Finals MVP joining the Los Angeles Lakers, and the reported details of the conversation make it seem like Leonard is genuinely considering teaming up with LeBron James.
Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times said in an appearance on Spectrum Sportsnet Sunday that Leonard and his uncle and business manager, Dennis Robertson, have spoken with Johnson several times. One question they asked is whether or not the Lakers tried to trade for Kawhi prior to last season, to which Magic said the team did but would have had to give up too much because of Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs being hesitant to do business with them. Leonard and Robertson also asked about the dysfunction in the Lakers organization.
“(Robertson asked) is it as dysfunctional as we’re reading and hearing?'” Turner said, as transcribed by Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll. “And the response was, ‘We had some issues, but we’re past that. I’m past that. We’re still a family, such as you fight with your brothers and sisters sometimes, well, I had somewhat of a disagreement with my sister. And Rob Pelinka, yes, I said he was a back-stabber, but that happened then. Now I want the Lakers to be a championship team. Having Kawhi here would do that.'”
Leonard also asked if the Lakers would be open to adding some of his personal medical people to the team’s staff, and Magic said they had done that with LeBron James and he believes they would make the same accommodations for Kawhi.
The overall takeaway here is that Leonard doesn’t seem like the type of guy who wants to waste time, and asking those types of questions must mean he is legitimately interested in the Lakers. We may have to wait a while for his decision, but the Lakers are clearly in the running.
Kawhi Leonard’s interest in the Los Angeles Lakers appears to be extremely genuine.
Magic Johnson spoke with Leonard and his uncle on Sunday after being contacted by Leonard, according to the LA Times’ Brad Turner.
The Toronto Raptors always knew that there was a big risk attached to acquiring Leonard, and that was that he could leave for Southern California in free agency after just one season. Last summer, the word was that Leonard wanted to play for the Lakers, but reports progressed in recent months to say he may have favored the Clippers. Now things have reversed and all the buzz is that Leonard favors the Lakers.
Magic Johnson could not formally represent the Lakers in a free agent meeting with Leonard, but he can speak with Kawhi in an unofficial capacity, as he appears to have done.
Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers just can’t quit each other.
Despite his recent issues with the franchise, Johnson is planning to help recruit Kawhi Leonard to the Lakers. The Los Angeles Times’ Brad Turner reported on Friday that Leonard was planning on meeting with Magic and Jeanie Buss during his meeting with the Lakers.
Johnson and Buss will not be alone in the meeting, as LeBron James and Anthony Davis are reportedly set to take part as well.
Despite these reports, some clarifications need to be made. Davis will not officially be a part of the Lakers at the time of their free agent meetings because the trade is not set to be official until July 6. That would make his presence at meetings considered “tampering.”
Also, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne cleared things up about Magic. She says Leonard wanted to talk with him specifically and he has made himself available for that, though he will not be allowed to actually be part of the team’s official meeting with Leonard.
Johnson’s willingness to help the Lakers comes little more than a month after he publicly criticized GM Rob Pelinka on national television. That came after Johnson abruptly quit his job as the team’s president of basketball operations at the end of the season. Despite all this, he’ll be selling the team anyway. Yes, it’s strange, but Magic is still an NBA icon and one of the most prominent Lakers of all time. It seems that everyone can get over the weird recent history when it comes to recruiting a potentially franchise-changing player.
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.
We have now officially entered a bizarro world for the Los Angeles Lakers.
A little over an hour after news broke that the Lakers reached agreement with the New Orleans Pelicans on a trade for Anthony Davis, Magic Johnson went on Twitter and sent his congratulations to Rob Pelinka on a “great trade.”
Johnson congratulating Pelinka is so bizarre on many levels.
First, this is Magic congratulating a guy he wanted to fire, which is so odd. Does that mean Magic thinks Pelinka went from being bad to good at his job in the span of two months?
Second, less than a month ago, Magic said Pelinka had betrayed him. And now he’s complimenting him like nothing happened. Again, supremely odd.
Third, Johnson resigned from the Lakers abruptly at the end of the season, seemingly because he had endured enough criticism over the team’s bad season and no longer wanted to be a part of it. By congratulating them now, it’s like he wants to be involved again now that things are going better.
Fourth, it almost seems like Magic is trying to claim some credit by getting his name involved in the trade. This is a deal the Lakers had been trying to make prior to last season’s trade deadline, but the Pelicans were an unwilling trade partner. Pelinka finally getting the deal done is like a completion of a move Magic had wanted to make, and it seems he wants that recognized.
There is never a shortage of drama when it comes to the Lakers and Magic Johnson.
Stephen A. Smith is one of the highest-paid on-air personalities at ESPN, and he is not afraid to criticize the network that pays him millions each year. He proved that once again on Tuesday with another an epic rant in defense of Magic Johnson.
Smith’s colleague, ESPN senior writer Baxter Holmes, published a bombshell feature on Tuesday that included commentary from current and former Los Angeles Lakers employees about what working for Johnson was like. The overall theme was that Magic used “intimidation and bullying as a way of showing authority,” with two staffers saying they had panic attacks and needed anti-anxiety medication because of the pressures Johnson heaped on them.
Smith, who is close with Johnson, went off about the story. He mocked the idea that Magic is a “fear monger” and ridiculed anyone who faults him for demanding excellence.
As Smith mentioned, the story was published the same day Johnson is scheduled to appear on “SportsCenter” for an NBA Finals coverage special alongside Smith, Mike Wilbon and Doc Rivers.
Johnson obviously has a very different account of the way things went in his brief time with the Lakers, and he had no problem pointing the finger with the remarks he made about GM Rob Pelinka. While you can understand Smith defending Johnson over putting pressure on his employees, the leadership style clearly didn’t work. Whether you agree with it or not, Johnson was unable to create an environment that allowed those under him to assemble a winning team.
Magic Johnson made a lasting impact on the Los Angeles Lakers in his very brief time in charge of the team’s basketball operations department, and that impact apparently led to anti-anxiety medication being prescribed to at least two people who worked under him.
As part of an explosive feature that was published on Tuesday, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes spoke with several current and former Lakers staffers about their experiences having Johnson as their boss. From the time Magic was hired in March of 2017, current and ex-team employees say the legend tried to instill fear in those working under him and immediately made it clear that anyone who was not on-board with his style could be replaced. One member of the team’s coaching staff said Johnson pointed at a stack of resumes in his office and said there were “a thousand” people waiting to replace any of his employees. The coach described it as “shocking.”
Another Lakers staffer said Johnson used “intimidation and bullying as a way of showing authority.” Two employees said Johnson’s commitment to ruling with an iron fist resulted in them needing a prescription for anti-anxiety medication. One longtime female staffer said she was called into an office with Johnson and Lakers GM Rob Pelinka in 2017 after making a mistake, which involved a mix-up with arranging a car service for a draft prospect to the team’s facility. Johnson allegedly berated her.
“I don’t stand for mistakes!” he shouted. “I don’t make mistakes.”
Multiple people who witnessed the exchange told Baxter that Johnson made it clear she would be fired if she had one more slip-up. She began to cry, and she said she later suffered increased panic attacks and began taking medication and going to therapy to address the anxiety issue. She quit working for the team on Dec. 18, 2017 after more than 20 years on the job.
Another executive told Baxter he, too, needed anti-anxiety medication because of the way Johnson ran things.
“Every day you go in there and you get this horrible feeling of anxiety,” the executive said. “In the last year, I can’t tell you how many panic attacks I’ve had from the s— that has happened there.”
Johnson had no problem pointing the finger with some candid comments he made about Pelinka recently, but it seems clear he created a toxic culture in LA during his time in charge. Judging by what those who worked under him say, it sounds like he may have stepped down too late.
For the second time in two months, Magic Johnson has left Jeanie Buss blindsided.
The first time came at the end of the Los Angeles Lakers’ season when Magic abruptly resigned from his job as team president and did so without giving Buss prior warning. The second time came Monday when Johnson went on ESPN program “First Take” and shared public criticism of the franchise that he declined to tell Buss first.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne published a column hours after Johnson’s interview in which the Lakers legend accused the team’s GM of backstabbing him.
According to Shelburne, Johnson aired grievances about the Lakers that he did not tell Buss first despite them talking multiple times since his resignation and even meeting for dinner. Buss, the Lakers’ majority owner, wanted to know from Johnson why he resigned and if he had issues with anyone within the organization. He declined to say and instead reiterated he resigned because he wanted to get his freedom back and be himself again.
Johnson said the complete opposite in his interview with “First Take.” He said he was upset with Pelinka talking negatively about him behind his back. He also said he didn’t like that Lakers business operations president Tim Harris interfered with his desire to fire Luke Walton.
If Johnson had all these issues, why didn’t he tell his boss rather than just walk out and ditch the franchise? His interview comments continue to paint the organization in a negative light, which is something he’s been doing for years.
Magic repeatedly would criticize Jim Buss when the Lakers were not doing well. Then Johnson got the team president job and was tasked with turning them around. The team continued to be bad and he stepped down once he started getting negative publicity. Now that he’s not involved anymore, he’s continuing to criticize from afar. It’s a bad look for him and the franchise.
Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka took a diplomatic tone when responding to Magic Johnson’s accusations of “betrayal.”
Johnson accused Pelinka of backstabbing him, but Pelinka called the comments “saddening and disheartening.” The GM added that he has talked to Johnson recently and hopes to talk to him again to discuss the “untrue” accusations.
There were reports that Johnson wanted to fire Pelinka, so it’s safe to say the relationship between the two men is difficult. It remains to be seen whether Johnson is even interested in having any further discussion.
Magic Johnson’s wide-ranging interview on ESPN’s First Take Monday morning had a lot of strange and memorable moments, but one appears to have caught the internet’s imagination.
In discussing some of the moves he made as the Los Angeles Lakers’ team president, Johnson referenced the departure of Nick Young, widely known for his “Swaggy P” nickname. Not quite widely enough, however, as Johnson referenced him a bit differently.
Naturally, the internet went right in on that.
Let’s just say something like this isn’t going to do much to convince people that Rob Pelinka’s supposed “backstabbing” was unjust or unwarranted.