Dan Feldman

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Agency fires Dan Fegan, hires Kevin Johnson

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DeAndre Jordan fired Dan Fegan. John Wall fired Dan Fegan. Dwight Howard fired Dan Fegan.

And now Independent Sports & Entertainment is firing Dan Fegan — which would be far more defensible if the agency weren’t hiring Kevin Johnson. (Chris Grancio will take on Fegan’s responsibility).

ISE represents several NBA players, including DeMarcus Cousins, Chandler Parsons, Ricky Rubio. This looms large for Cousins’ 2018 free agency, the next round of Rubio trade talks and the Mavericks, with whom Fegan has been closely (too closely?) linked.

I wonder what agent-critic Vlade Divac thinks about this shakeup.

Mostly, I wonder why ISE would hire Johnson with his baggage.

 

Potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz declares for NBA draft

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The two top 2017 draft prospects on lousy college teams are turning pro.

First, reportedly, North Carolina State point guard Dennis Smith Jr. And, now, Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.

Fultz is the most complete prospect in this draft. He scores inside and out, sets up teammates and defends — with size and athleticism that instill faith in his ability to translate to the pros.

That well-rounded game has Fultz in the running to be the No. 1 pick, though a late knee injury raises concern. Fultz’s main competition: UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, who’s even taller and has more tantalizing athleticism.

Fultz’s season is over, Washington finishing 9-22. His case for the top pick is strong, and he’s probably favored right now. But Ball can keep building through the NCAA tournament and maybe set up an intriguing battle for the No. 1 pick during the pre-draft process.

Report: Jeanie Buss resented Jim Buss for breakdown in her relationship with Phil Jackson

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In 2012, Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak courted Phil Jackson to become the team’s new coach. That delighted Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, who was dating Jackson. Jackson left a meeting with Kupchak and Jim with the impression he had a couple days to decide whether to accept a job offer. A day later, the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni.

Jeanie was stunned. She and her brother reportedly stopped speaking.

Nearly a year later, Jeanie — who, by then was engaged to Jackson — and Jim insisted they had put the saga behind them.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The Knicks hired Jackson as president in 2014, complicating his and Jeanie’s relationship. Not only did they live on opposite coasts, they were leading opposing teams. Rumors of Jackson joining Jeanie’s Lakers were seemingly endless.

In December, Jeanie and Jackson called off their engagement. Last month, Jeanie fired Jim and Kupchak.

Least you think those developments are unrelated…

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Jeanie Buss blamed her brother for forcing her to choose between the Lakers and the man she loved.

Long distance was far more of a strain on Buss and Jackson’s relationship than either of them anticipated, particularly because, due to the NBA’s policy against conflicts of interest, the couple couldn’t discuss anything related to their teams. If they ever decided to marry, the other NBA owners would have to approve it.

Each year that went by, Buss and Jackson grew further apart. Although Buss could’ve resigned her post as Lakers president to live with and marry Jackson in New York, that was never going to happen. She was far too proud of her career for that, and she always saw the Lakers as a civic treasure for which she was responsible.

The breakup in the fall of 2016 was hard on Buss. It brought back to the surface her resentment toward Jim Buss and served as a reminder of just how much her relationship with her brother and Kupchak had been poisoned by mistrust.

There were legitimate reasons to fire Jim Buss and Kupchak — the pie-in-the-sky ideas, stubbornness, poor signings and broken lines of communication.

Mixing professional and personal dynamics only muddies the water. Considering Jim Buss remains an owner, this isn’t cleared up just yet.

Shaq responds to Kevin Durant: ‘The league is soft and these guys are sensitive’

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Kevin Durant ripped Shaquille O’Neal over Shaq’s treatment of Warriors teammate JaVale McGee.

Now, Shaq is firing back.

He dismissed Durant for not winning a championship (yawn) then continued into Durant’s generation of players. Shaq, via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

 

“Just put it this way: The league is soft and these guys are sensitive, period. I was sensitive [as a player] too but I never went back at [older players]. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain never said s— to [support] me. Did I cry about It? No. Kareem said in the paper one time, when they asked him, ‘Shaq is doing great, he has numbers similar to yours, what do you think?’ His response was, ‘Well, he hasn’t won a championship yet.’ I could have gone back at him, but I didn’t. I sucked it up like a real man and was like, ‘OK, watch this.’ A lot of guys, these days, when you say anything about them they start whimpering and crying.”

Retired greats ignoring up-and-coming players is one thing. Retired players going on television and frequently attacking current stars, as Shaq has done with Dwight Howard and others, is another. The latter cuts much deeper.

Besides, Shaq didn’t passively accept the (lesser) slights he received. In his book, Shaq bemoaned the way Abdul-Jabbar and Chamberlain treated him.

Magic Johnson: Jerry Buss wanted Jeanie Buss and me to run Lakers

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Even in death — maybe especially in death — Jerry Buss is revered as a guiding light for the Lakers. Many of the franchise’s issues are framed around what the late owner — who won 10 championships behind Showtime, Shaq and Kobe — would do.

That’s why, when he wanted to endorse Byron Scott as coach, Magic Johnson didn’t simply express his own faith in Scott. Johnson said Buss wanted Scott to coach the Lakers.

It’s also why, when he wanted to tweak Jim Buss — Jerry’s son — Johnson didn’t simply express his own dissatisfaction. Johnson said Jerry would be disappointed in the state of the Lakers.

What else did Jerry think according to Johnson?

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

DR. BUSS’ CHOICE to have Jeanie run the franchise after his death was always clear. His choice for who was best suited to run the franchise alongside his daughter was not.

“He’d tell me his vision was for Jeanie and I to run it. She knew that too,” says Magic Johnson. “[But] He couldn’t put me in that position. I told him that. I was upfront with him. I’d say, ‘You have four boys — there’s no way that’s going to go over well.'”

A few days before his death in February 2013, Dr. Buss summoned Johnson to visit him in the hospital. Johnson had sold his Lakers shares and become part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012, seemingly moving on from the dream of a role with the Lakers.

“Jeanie had called and told me to come up, that he wanted to see me,” Johnson says. “And he said it again. He said, ‘I always thought you guys would run it.’ We were both sitting there crying about it because he knew I was right. … Back then, it would have been a lot of resentment. It would have been difficult.”

This feels pretty gross.

I’m not assuming Johnson is intentionally misdescribing Jerry’s words to make himself look good. But I’m also not assuming Johnson, who publicly campaigned to run the Lakers’ front office while supposedly advising the previous regime, isn’t intentionally misdescribing Jerry’s words to make himself look good.

Either way, we have only Johnson’s interpretation of what Jerry said. We obviously can’t ask Jerry to clarify — and that’s why I’d prefer Johnson stops speaking for Jerry posthumously.

While Johnson was still playing, Jerry talked about making Johnson his protege, eventually hiring Johnson as coach or general manager. After brief coaching stint, Johnson bought a stake of the team in 1994 and spent time in the front office under Jerry (and returns now under Jeanie Buss).

But Jerry also spent a lot of time advocating for Jim to run basketball operations. Jerry valued having his children involved, as shown by the setup he left. Even Jeanie knew that, which is why she gave Jim so much rope.

My best guess: Jerry had multiple, sometimes competing, desires about who’d run the Lakers and stated them in a way that allowed others to hear what they wanted to hear.

But I don’t know that, and I’m not going to speak definitively on behalf of a dead man.