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In least surprising news ever, Magic Johnson says “yes I do want to” head Lakers basketball operations

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Magic Johnson’s campaign to get Jim Buss’ job as the head of Lakers’ basketball operations has all the subtlety of a Donald Trump tweet.

Magic was brought on by Jeanie Buss — the CEO of the Lakers and controller of the business side — as an “advisor to ownership.” But the way Magic has been critical of Jim Buss in the past it seems the writing was on the wall, and if that wasn’t clear enough Magic said the Lakers didn’t seem headed in the right direction and that he wanted the job to right the ship.

But if all that was too subtle for you, here is Magic went on ESPN’s “First Take” and was more direct (transcribed by Tania Ganguli on Twitter), saying he would want a “Phil Jackson” kind of role.

“If I took on the role, and yes I do want to do it. If I took it on, I would definitely give 150 percent because I have other people to run my businesses. We’re at a place now where I don’t have to be there. But I would have to be with the Lakers every single day. We’ve gotta come up with a strategy that will help us get back in the next three to five years.”

Lakers fans should hope he does a better job than Jackson has in New York. Although saying the Lakers are still three to five years away is spot on and a sign that he seems to understand the task ahead — there is not a quick fix in Los Angeles. Superstar free agents are not going to flock to the Lakers right now just because they are the Lakers, as the Celtics did the Lakers need to build a strong young foundation, then the stars (Al Horford) will take the team seriously. Right now, even if Magic gets a meeting with an elite free agent, it’s out of courtesy.

This can work, but it’s going to take more than just effort. While his first call may be to Kobe Bryant, Magic’s second call should be to one of the good up-and-coming potential GMs in the league (there are a number of guys considered ready for the job) and install him as the GM. Magic is not going to be the day-to-day guy dealing with agents, and he needs somebody who knows the salary cap and its many nuances well. He needs a right-hand guy who gets the details of the job, someone who can execute Magic’s vision.

All that said, it’s hard not to see Magic getting the job this summer. The only question is how bloody the coup will be.

 

Knicks’ Willy Hernangomez replaces Emmanuel Mudiay in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge

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Nuggets point guard Emmanuel Mudiay will sit out his sixth consecutive game Wednesday night with back issues, he tweaked it against the Spurs back on Feb. 5.

Mudiay, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was slated to play Friday night in New Orleans in the Rising Stars Challenge, where first- and second-year players from the USA take on their counterparts from around the world. The Nuggets and Mudiay have decided he can’t suit up.

So the Knicks Willy Hernangomez will take his place on the World team, the NBA announced Friday.

Sure, that’s replacing a point guard with a center, but it’s as meaningless an exhibition as you can find so why worry about positions? This is the second roster replacement for the world as Thunder guard Alex Abrines will suit up for the injured Sixers center Joel Embiid.

Hernangomez, from Spain, is averaging 6.5 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the season, however, his run has increased of late and in his last seven games he’s averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds in 24.9 minutes.

The Rising Stars Challenge will be broadcast on TNT starting at 9 p.m. Eastern on TNT.

PBT Extra: Serge Ibaka trade good for Toronto, but how close does it get them to Cleveland?

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There is a reason the Raptors front office has long coveted Serge Ibaka, Toronto’s weak spot is the four and Ibaka perfectly fits what they need in that role.

The trade of Ibaka from Orlando to Toronto was good for both sides, but for the Raptors it was their big move. Ibaka is a free agent this summer, and what it’s going to cost to keep him and Kyle Lowry (also a free agent) is going to send the Raptors deep into the tax. This is basically their roster for the next few years, the core of it anyway.

The Raptors got better, they got closer to Cleveland with this move. I just don’t think it’s enough if the Cavs are healthy.

Lakers’ rookie Brandon Ingram airballs a free throw (VIDEO)

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Brandon Ingram is no candidate for the “hack-a-” strategy, he’s hitting 65.8 percent from the stripe as a rookie.

But he looked bad on this shot. Ingram airballed a free throw during the second quarter Tuesday night. Ouch.

The Lakers made the interesting defensive decision to single cover DeMarcus Cousins most of the night, and the result was 40 points — 16 in the fourth — plus 12 rebounds from the big man to lead the Kings to their fourth straight win, 97-96 over the Lakers.

 

Nuggets trade for Mason Plumlee, say center was too good to pass up

Associated Press
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DENVER (AP) — This was too good to pass up: Another center who unselfishly shares the ball.

That’s what sold the Denver Nuggets on Mason Plumlee as they officially traded for the versatile center Monday, sending bruising big man Jusuf Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers in return.

“Mason is a guy who complements what we have presently in the front court quite well,” Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said. “His playmaking is something unique and really stands out. Our offense is really humming right now.”

That’s in large part because of the play of Nikola Jokic, an up-and-coming big man who’s equally adept at passing (4.2 assists per game) as he is at scoring (16.3 points) and rebounding (8.6). Like Jokic, Plumlee has a knack for getting everyone involved and should slide right in whenever Jokic needs a breather.

The two big men may even take the floor at the same time.

Although, that’s an experiment the Nuggets tried early in the season with Nurkic and Jokic, leading to mixed results. Then again, Plumlee and Jokic have more similar-style games.

“It will be great to have almost the synergy of playing the same way with two bigs capable of making the same types of plays,” said coach Michael Malone, who doesn’t expect Plumlee to play Monday night against Golden State but more likely Wednesday against Minnesota. “We feel we have two of the better passing bigs in the NBA right now.”

Still, it was a difficult decision to send the 22-year-old Nurkic to a division rival, especially one that’s right on the Nuggets’ heels for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

The offer was just too enticing to turn down.

“By no means are we a finished product, but we feel Mason definitely helps us get in the direction where we’re headed and may be a playoff team,” Malone said. “His versatility, his athleticism, his I.Q., his playmaking, his rim presence defensively – he brings a lot of things to the table that will complement the players that we have.”

Golden State All-Star forward Kevin Durant thinks this move bolsters Denver.

“Those two are going to play well off each other,” Durant said. “Having two guys, as big fellas, that can do that, it takes the pressure off your wings, your point guards, allows them to play with their athleticism. … Adding another guy that can play definitely helps.”

As part of the deal, Denver also receives a 2018 second-round pick and cash considerations, while the Blazers get a 2017 protected first-rounder.

About that first-rounder the team surrendered: Connelly said that given the Nuggets’ youth – they have a half-dozen players 22 and under – the team was already struggling to find enough minutes for everyone.

“It’s becoming difficult to continue not just to roster those guys but develop those guys on the court,” Connelly said. “For us, we have so many interesting young players as is. We weren’t overly concerned with another pick in the 20s.”

Nurkic is averaging eight points this season. The 7-footer known as the “Bosnian Beast” simply became expendable with the emergence of Jokic, who turns 22 later this month.

Plumlee was a first-round pick by Brooklyn in 2013, before being dealt to Portland two years later. The former Duke standout averaged 11.1 points this season for Portland, along with eight rebounds and four assists.

Although he’s a restricted free agent this summer, the Nuggets have high hopes they can retain him.

“The deal was not done just for today. It was done for years moving forward,” Connelly said. “When you look at our free agent board, he was a guy that we had circled early in the process and, quite frankly, we didn’t feel confident we could get him without a move like this.”