As the Warriors were preparing to sweep Portland out of the Western Conference Finals to advance to their 5th straight NBA Finals, the Lakers were making news for all the wrong reasons.
Western Conference Finals
Before I delve into the dysfunctional organization in Southern California, let’s give some quick props to the pride of Northern California, the Golden State Warriors. I was foolishly hoping for a 7-game series, maybe even a Blazers upset, but the Warriors proved way too talented, experienced, and better coached. Even without Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins for the entire series, and Andre Iguodala for part of game 3 and all of game 4, Portland blew big leads several times in the series. The Blazers actually led for more minutes during the series than the Dubs did, but could not close them out.
Stephen Curry and Draymond Green became the first teammates to record triple-doubles in the same playoff game. The two carried the team in the absence of KD, with help from Klay Thompson, and support from an unlikely cast including Alfonzo McKinnie, Kevon Looney, and Jordan Bell. Curry thrived as he was allowed to reprise his role as the team’s full time go-to guy. Their reward is a nice long rest, while the Bucks and Raptors compete in the East.
Magic Johnson on First Take
Magic Johnson has referred to Jeanie Buss as “like a sister” many times over the years, but recently he has treated her more like a red-headed stepsister. On April 9, Johnson blindsided the Lakers controlling owner and the basketball world when he announced his resignation as president of basketball operations.
Not content with fleeing a sinking ship he helped create, Johnson decided to air out some grievances on First Take Monday morning and further damage the once proud organization. In doing so, he once again hit his “sister” without warning, criticizing her, general manager Rob Pelinka, and Lakers business operations president Tim Harris.
Since his resignation, Buss and Johnson had numerous conversations in regards to any dissatisfaction he might have with Pelinka or any other member of the organization. On May 2, they went to dinner, and she posted a photo of the encounter on her Twitter account. Reportedly, nothing was said in these conversations on Magic’s part.
This latest salvo came at a most inopportune time, landing on the same day Pelinka and the Lakers were introducing new head coach Frank Vogel. While reiterating he quit because he wasn’t having fun anymore, he accused Pelinka of stabbing him in the back. “You know how many agents called me and said, watch out for him?” he told the First Take panel.
“If you’re going to talk betrayal, it’s only with Rob.”
Johnson continued to air dirty laundry, confirming stories Buss had previously denied, in regards to shopping youngsters Kyle Kuzma, Brandom Ingram, and Lonzo Ball for All-Star Anthony Davis prior to the trade deadline. Johnson confirmed the obvious, that they did not handle it well. Magic First Take Interview
Johnson outlined what his plan would have been, going forward. Pursue Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard in free agency. He guaranteed a title for LeBron as a Laker, which seems a bit far fetched at this point. He also was able to make excuses for his own shortcomings as team president. He had a long and convoluted reason for his failing of Julius Randle. He dismissed his questionable decision to trade young center Ivica Zubac.
Johnson blasted the Lakers for including ex-Lakers coaches Phil Jackson and Kurt Rambis in the decision-making process, suggesting “there are too many voices.” Johnson’s interview served as yet another voice in the messy process.
I enjoyed watching Magic pour gasoline on the fire as the Lakers burn down. It was entertaining and compelling. The once beloved point guard of the Lakers Showtime era now seems hellbent on tearing down the franchise he helped build. His actions have only been self-serving throughout this circus. Instead of helping his public persona, it only serves to make him look small, petty, and bitter.
There is no denying the Lakers are a huge mess, and it starts with Jeanie Buss. Regardless of the veracity of his comments, the optics for Magic Johnson are publicly damaging to a man who has done so much in the community and for the game of basketball. In hindsight, Buss made a mistake hiring Johnson, who has too many other interests to fully devote his time to a team as president of basketball operations.
The Lakers wasted a season in the career of aging future Hall-of-Famer LeBron James. Now, they must figure out how they will find players who actually want to dive into this dumpster fire in free agency.
Los Angeles announced the hiring of Vogel as their head coach on Monday, and Pelinka was forced to devote time addressing Magic’s assault on his character and the organization as a whole. In his defense, Pelinka took the high road and handled it well. Vogel was offered the job only after Monty Williams and Ty Lue rejected the Lakers’ offers. Vogel will have pressure from the outset, with assistant coach Jason Kidd waiting in the wings.
With the number four pick in the upcoming NBA draft, LA can pick up an impact shooting guard, such as Jarrett Culver, a point guard in Darius Garland, or small forward Cam Reddish. A franchise who was already going to find it challenging to entice star free agents to Los Angeles this summer, will only find it more daunting after Magic Johnson basically took a dump on the organization.