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Magic Johnson says he’d like to “call the shots” for Lakers basketball operations

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The minute Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss sat down and had lunch Magic Johnson — before Magic was hired as an advisor to ownership — the questions started to be asked: Does this mean a shakeup is coming to the Lakers’ front office? Will Jim Buss be pushed out? Mitch Kupchak? Will Magic ultimately be the guy at the top of the food chain in Lakers’ basketball operations?

There are no definitive answers to that yet, but I wouldn’t feel very comfortable if I were Jim Buss.

Magic told the USA Today he’d like to be the guy calling the shots.

“Working to call the shots, because it only works that way,’’ Johnson told USA TODAY Sports when asked what he hopes his role with the franchise will be. “Right now I’m advising. I get that. But at the end of the day, then we all got to come together and somebody’s got to say, ‘I’m making the final call,’ all right? And who’s that going to be?

“So, we’ll see what happens.”

Magic is currently on a crash course — he’s got to learn the ins and outs of the NBA’s complex salary cap structure and Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“The main part for me is really learning the other part that I didn’t know, and that is to understand the CBA, the salary cap, where we are in terms of the salary cap and who’s a free-agent-to-be. You’ve got a lot of young players so you’ve got to learn when are their contracts coming up, if you can give them the max deal, give them an extension, all those types of things you’ve got to learn. It’s a lot of things, but I’m excited. I’ve been working on all of those things, and then meeting with the staff.”

If Magic were given power, the Lakers would need to have a more experienced cap manager/NBA front office veteran just below him in the power structure. Someone Magic could work with but who could guide him through challenging times (the Lakers don’t want the kind of mistakes Vlade Divac was making early on in Sacramento).

There are two questions for me. First, will Magic be given the hammer on the basketball operations side? Call it a power grab if you want, but he has to be handed the power by the owners. Jeanie Buss can’t just fire Jim, that’s not the way the complex trust that governs the Lakers ownership and the six Buss children works. It would take a majority of the Buss family to move him (Jim likely would resign first, but not sell his shares, he can’t the way the trust is structured) — however there are plenty of reports that the other Buss children are ready to move on from the Jim Buss/Kupchak era (that’s not totally fair to Kupchak, but that’s also another discussion). It would not surprise anyone this summer to see Jim step aside and Magic be installed as a VP and Director of Basketball Operations (or some such title). However, that is not a certainty.

Second question: Is that a good thing? While there is an “anyone is better than Jim Buss” camp among Lakers fans, any follower of Magic’s incipit Twitter account can see cause for worry — he has pitched the same living-in-the-past ideas publicly that Jim Buss seemed to believe. That the Lakers can land free agents still just because they are the Lakers. Magic has said the Lakers should have gone after Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan and others of that ilk — guys that would not even meet with Los Angeles right now. Magic doesn’t change the equation, the Lakers advantages due to brand and location have been reduced by both the CBA and the world of social media. You can get just as big a shoe deal playing in Oklahoma City now if you’re a superstar. The Lakers need to follow more of the Boston model — build a good young core with a good young coach, get up above .500 and show promise, and then free agents will take you seriously. Boston didn’t land Al Horford until it won 48 games.

Can Magic do that?

Will he get the chance?

There’s going to be a lot of drama playing out in Los Angeles this summer.

Kevin Durant cops to tweets, calls elements of them ‘childish’ and ‘idiotic’

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Kevin Durant – tweeting in the third person, suggesting he forget to switch to a secret Twitter account – said he left the Thunder because he didn’t like the organization or playing for Billy Donovan and that Oklahoma City’s surrounding cast around himself and Russell Westbrook was lacking. Durant also appeared to have a second Instagram account he has used to insult critics.

Durant at TechCrunch:

Durant:

I do have other another Instagram account, but that’s just for my friends and family. So, I wouldn’t say I was using that to clap back at anybody.

But I use Twitter to engage with the fans. I think it’s a great way to engage with basketball fans.

But I happened to take it a little too far, and that’s what happens sometimes when I get into these basketball debates. Or what I really love is just to play basketball. I went a little too far.

And I don’t regret clapping back at anybody or talking to my fans on Twitter. I do regret using my former coach’s name and the former organization that I played for. That was childish. That was idiotic. All those type of words. I regret doing that, and I apologize to him for doing that.

But I don’t think I’ll ever stop engaging with my fans. I think they really enjoy it, and I think it’s a good way to connect us all. But I will scale back a little bit right now and just focus on playing basketball. So, I want to move on from that. It was tough to deal with yesterday. I was really upset with myself. But definitely want to move on and keep playing basketball. But I still want to interact with my fans, as well.

Durant can defend himself all he wants on social media. Fans, even those who detest him, do enjoy the interaction.

But an anonymous-looking account defending Durant provides no joy to those fans. They don’t – or at least didn’t – know they were interacting with the famous basketball star. This is something else entirely.

And it sure looks like Durant used his secret Instagram account to clap back at fans. Via SB Nation:

Durant denying that really makes it hard to accept this as him coming clean.

Mostly, Durant just opened himself to numerous follow-up questions:

Did he really dislike the Thunder organization? Did he really dislike playing for Donovan? If yes to either question, why? If no to either question, why say that? How does lying serve the fans he’s claiming he wants to engage?

Dwight Howard changes story, blames Magic front office for bringing up firing Stan Van Gundy

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While sipping from a can of Pepsi, Stan Van Gundy calmly explained to the assembled media that Magic management told him Dwight Howard wanted the coach fired. Then, an unsuspecting Howard walked up and put his arm around Van Gundy. Van Gundy slinked away, leaving Howard to answer questions.

That 2012 press conference was an all-time great NBA moment.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

To hear Howard tell it, he has been the victim of more subtle misunderstandings than Larry David. The excruciatingly awkward press conference, when Stan Van Gundy confirmed that Howard was lobbying the Magic front office to fire him, only for an unsuspecting Howard to join Van Gundy and deny what the coach claimed? “That previous summer, the front office asked me about Stan, and I told them I thought he was losing his voice with the team. But they were the ones who said they should start looking for other coaches.”

Howard already admitted in 2014 he told the Magic he thought Van Gundy should have been fired after the 2011 playoffs. Howard even griped that Orlando didn’t listen to him!

I get that Howard is (again) trying to rehabilitate his image, but he has to do a better job of keeping his story straight.

Bulls hire Doug Collins as senior advisor

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Doug Collins burns out. Burns out his players, burns out himself. That was his reputation through 11 seasons coaching the Bulls, Pistons, Wizards and 76ers.

When Collins left Philadelphia in 2013, he declared he was done coaching. There was just too much pressure, he said.

Perhaps, Collins has found a role that better suits him.

Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

In a surprise announcement, the Chicago Bulls have brought former coach Doug Collins back into the fold, naming him a senior advisor to Executive Vice President John Paxson.

Even among NBA personnel, Collins was a basketball expert in his time. Whether he has kept up in a rapidly evolving league is an open question.

It won’t hurt having his voice in the room. It might hurt if the Bulls lean too heavily on it.

Hopefully, everyone entered this arrangement for the right reasons. Paxson played for Collins in Chicago. Collins’ son – Chris Collins – coaches nearby Northwestern. An overreliance on comfort won’t yield positive results. The Bulls need forward-thinkers, not just familiar faces. Successful executives put in a lot of work and aren’t just hanging around to be close with family.

This hire probably won’t move the needle much, but there’s certainly a chance it could – in either direction.

Dwight Howard considered retiring in 2015

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Dwight Howard missed half the 2014-15 season due to injury, and he was investigated (but not charged) for child abuse that year.

But he remained defiantly confident.

He said he planned to play another 10 years. When his Rockets lost in the playoffs, he declared he was “still a champion.”

The picture behind the scenes wasn’t quite so rosy, though.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

At a low point with the Rockets, after the 2014–15 season, he considered retiring. The jolly giant who supposedly had too much fun on the floor was miserable. “The joy,” Howard says, “was sucked out of it.” But what would retirement accomplish? He had to change his life regardless of his occupation. So he did what his teenage self would have done. He saw a pastor.

Calvin Simmons has ministered to hundreds of professional athletes in the past decade, including Adrian Peterson, so he is familiar with dramatic falls from grace. “Dwight had gone from the darling of the NBA to the black sheep,” Simmons says. “He realized he had done some things wrong and needed to change, but at the beginning he just wanted to share.”

“I saw him cleanse everything,” Simmons says, “and cut away the clutter around him, from a business manager to a security guard to all these financial people.” The sweep included his parents, whom he didn’t call for nearly two years. “That was hard,” Howard sighs. “It’s really hard to tell your parents, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I have to back away from you.’ They didn’t understand. They were very upset. But I wanted a genuine relationship with them that didn’t have anything to do with money or judgment.”

Howard’s fortunes didn’t exactly improve.

He feuded with James Harden, chafed at his role in Houston and endured public questions about why nobody likes him. Howard signed with his hometown Hawks, had a somewhat resurgent season, but again ended the year unhappy. Atlanta took major long-term salary just to dump him on the Hornets.

Howard is now a good situation in Charlotte, where the coach reveres him. This looks like Howard’s best chance of getting back on track.

But what if he doesn’t? That’s what I wonder when reading about 2015. If he nearly retired then, what happens if he doesn’t thrive with the Hornets and is faced with minimum-contract offers and small roles when he becomes a free agent at age 33 in 2019. Will he retire?

That’s obviously a ways off. For now, Howard will have every opportunity to right himself in Charlotte.