Luol Deng

Report: Lakers not willing to give up players/picks needed dump Mozgov, Deng contracts

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The Lakers had money to spend last year and they spent it: four-years, $64 million for Timofey Mozgov, four-year, $72 million for Luol Deng. The idea was they would contribute a little now as the young Lakers grew, be leaders in the locker room, then in a couple of years the Lakers could package the rest of those contracts in deals to get the stars they wanted.

Except it was a major overpay and miscalculation about what Mozgov and Deng could contribute. Those were two of the worst contracts given out last free agency.

The Lakers might like to get those contracts off the books, but they aren’t willing to pay the price in sweeteners yet to get the job done. That according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Well of course teams are asking for a sweetener to take on those deals. Why would they just take on those massive contracts, to help out Magic Johnson because he’s new?

At some point over the next season the Lakers will decide which players do not fit with their long-term plans as well, and then those players may be used as sweeteners in a deal to move those salaries. But the Lakers clearly are not there yet.

Rumor: Lakers will not include No. 2 pick, Brandon Ingram in Paul George deal. Why would they?

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With Paul George‘s people telling the Pacers he’s going to be a free agent next summer and wants to head to the Lakers, there is only one reason for the Lakers to get involved in a trade for him now: Fear he gets dealt to Cleveland or Miami or wherever, wins some, decides he likes it and stays.

The Lakers can be proactive and make a trade now, but they shouldn’t give up any player or pick they think has real value. Which brings us to something Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said in his podcast this week (hat tip RealGM) :

“The Lakers aren’t giving them Brandon Ingram,” added Wojnarowski. “They aren’t giving them the No. 2 pick.”

Why would they? The Lakers shouldn’t overpay for a guy that wants to come there anyway. It probably goes beyond just those two things.

The Lakers might do one young player — Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle — and the 28th overall pick in the draft (via Houston in the Lou Williams deal) to get something done. At most. L.A. would love to unload one of the bad Timofey Mozgov/Luol Deng contracts, but the Pacers are going to ask for more than one young player and one pick to take that on.

The Pacers are going to talk to every team in the league and take the best deal on the table. It’s simple for them. It seems unlikely the Lakers will have the best offer since they believe they can land him a year from now as a free agent and give up nothing.

 

Lakers? Cavaliers? Pacers only care about best offer when trading Paul George

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The Indiana Pacers are getting out of the Paul George business. Well, more accurately, he told them he’s getting out of the Pacers business in the summer of 2018, so Indiana is now hunting around looking for trade partners to get something before he walks.

Most of the speculation has focused on Cleveland going after him to pair with LeBron James, or the Lakers making a move to get him because he wants to come there as a free agent in 2018 anyway.

Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard isn’t limiting himself — he’s going to talk to 29 other teams, and the one with the best offer wins. That simple. It’s all bottom line. Pritchard doesn’t care where George wants to go, stuck in a bad situation the Pacers are gong to get the best deal they can and do it quickly.

That best deal may not come from Cleveland or Los Angeles, there may be a team that thinks with a year in their culture they can win him over the long term and are willing to pay a little more for the opportunity — although probably not as much as the Pacers are asking.

Still, let’s take a closer look at the two teams most rumored.

The Lakers have little incentive to put together a deal that gives up something of value because George’s people have already let it be known he plans to go there as a free agent next summer. Why spend now?

The one reason for the Lakers to get involved — fear that George will sign somewhere like Cleveland, like it, and decide to stay. Even with that risk, the Lakers don’t want to give up much — they could try to dump one of the bad Luol Deng/Timofey Mozgov contracts, plus throw in someone they see fitting long term (such as Julius Randle), but the Lakers don’t have picks to throw around, they don’t have a tradable first rounder until 2020.

It makes sense for Cleveland to try and get in the sweepstakes — they need an upgrade, and better play on the wings, to compete with Golden State. The Cavs are as win now as it gets and should go all in here. They may, and they have no concern about just renting George, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

The Cavs are willing to enter into trade talks for George without any assurances he will commit to a long-term deal in Cleveland, a source familiar with the Cavs’ thinking told ESPN. Cleveland is confident its championship culture and overall atmosphere could sway George to want to stay after playing out the 2017-18 season on the final year of his deal.

The bigger question for the Cavaliers: What can they give up that Indiana wants? They don’t have young players on the bench the rebuilding Pacers want, and it’s years befoe Cleveland has picks they can send out. They also are not trading away Kyrie Irving.

The name that comes up? Kevin Love. First off, this is not fair to Love who has worked hard and improved his game each year he has been in Cleveland — and he played hard and as well as could be expected in the Finals. The problem is, the Warriors are a beast, one that Love does not match up well against. The questions are, would the Cavs deal Love, and would Indy think Love and filler works for them? Trade George and the Pacers are in rebuilding mode, they would need to flip Love to get the kind of young player and picks needed to get on that path.

If another team comes with a better offer, the Pacers will take it. They are trying to make the best of a terrible situation, they don’t care where the offer comes from. They may even be a little patient, but the market for a rent-a-player is never all that high.

 

Lakers name Magic Johnson President of Basketball Operations

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Magic Johnson essentially publicly anointed himself in charge of the Lakers’ front office.

Now, the Lakers are actually giving him the job.

Lakers release:

Los Angeles Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss announced today that the team has named Earvin “Magic” Johnson as President of Basketball Operations. In addition, General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately. Furthermore, Jim Buss will no longer hold his role as Lakers Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.

“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss said. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

“It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family,” said Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

Jeanie Buss added, “I took these actions today to achieve one goal: Everyone associated with the Lakers will now be pulling in the same direction, the direction established by Earvin and myself. We are determined to get back to competing to win NBA championships again.”

Regarding Mitch Kupchak, Jeanie Buss stated, “We are grateful for the many contributions Mitch has made to the Lakers over the years and we wish him all the best.”

With regard to fellow owner and brother, Jim Buss, Ms. Buss said, “Jim loves the Lakers. Although he will no longer be responsible for basketball personnel decisions, he is an owner of this team and we share the same goal: returning the Lakers to the level of greatness our father demanded. Our fans deserve no less.”

In addition to the changes made within the basketball department, the Lakers also announced they have parted ways with John Black who had been the Lakers Vice President of Public Relations. Chief Operating Officer Tim Harris will immediately begin a search for a replacement. Jeanie Buss added, “We thank John for his many years of service.”

This closes an ugly chapter in which Jeannie Buss named Johnson as an advisor, and then he went about publicly trashing Jim Buss and Kupchack while evaluating them for her and clamoring for their front-office power.

Now, the real work begins. And that doesn’t mean calling Kobe Bryant.

Johnson inherits a team with plenty of young talent: D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Ivica Zubac. That’s a great starting point.

But the Lakers also face significant hurdles back to the top.

They lose their 2017 and 2019 first-round picks if their 2017 first-round pick doesn’t land in the top three. The Lakers have the NBA’s third-worst record. In the past, Johnson has expressed an affinity for tanking.

The Lakers also have the burdensome contracts of Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov. Those make it tough to clear cap space to sign a star.

At least they can trade Lou Williams, who’s having a special season. The deadline is Thursday, so Johnson must hit the ground running.

These conditions are the effects of Jim Buss’ misguided pledge to jolt the Lakers back to contending. Their shortsighted moves and even bigger dreams backfired so spectacularly, they backed into several high draft picks — and at least chose well. While Kupchak’s overall tenure was positive, his approach had grown stale.

The Lakers needed a change in management. I’m just not convinced Johnson was the solution.

Would they have hired him if he didn’t play for them? Probably not. Does his playing experience with the Lakers specifically, as opposed to any team, better prepare him for this job? Probably not.

But even if Johnson were hired for the wrong reasons, he can still succeed.

He thrived in business after retirement by putting the right people around him, and he can do that here. Johnson obviously knows basketball, but managing a roster and all the salary-cap complexities is a different animal. He needs staff, including a general manager, more familiar with that.

Johnson will be the franchise’s new smiling face. But, for this to truly work, Johnson will have to build a winner the old-fashioned way: With savvy drafting, trading and signing.

Magic Johnson: Lakers weren’t headed in good direction

AP Photo/Nick Ut
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The Lakers have lost 72% of their games over the last four years.

They’ve also assembled a young core that features D'Angelo Russell,Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.

Are the Lakers headed in the right direction, or are they on the wrong track?

Magic Johnson revealed what he told Jeanie Buss before she hired him as an advisor.

Johnson, via CBS This Morning:

 

I began to tell her what I felt about the team and the direction that the team was headed, and I didn’t think it was in a good direction.

We know that it’s going to take some time. It’s going to take three to five years to get them back again rolling.

Bemoan the situation you inherit and trumpet the need for patience? This is Job Preservation 101, and Johnson knows business.

He’s gunning to run the front office, and that means resuming his public campaign against Jim Buss. Johnson’s tactics in seeking a promotion are a little unseemly, but that doesn’t make him wrong.

The Lakers have signed too many veterans over the last few years — including Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, Lou Williams, Nick Young and, the elephant in the room, Kobe Bryant — to believe this was a team that understood its place. The Lakers weren’t just rebuilding and harvesting young talent. They were trying to win immediately — and falling flat on their face.

That doesn’t engender much confidence in Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.

However, the Lakers have drafted well under those two. In a league where on-court failure is rewarded with higher draft picks, the Lakers’ future looks bright. They might have backed themselves into this position, but they’re here. Whoever runs the front office in the coming years is set up for success.

Remember that too as you listen to Johnson’s spin.