Magic Johnson steps down as Lakers President of Basketball Operations

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Magic Johnson juggles a lot of balls in his life: family, a far-reaching business empire worth an estimated $700 million, charity work including HIV activism, being a spokesman for the NBA on some issues, and much more.

So much that he could never fully commit to being the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, not in the way needed to do the job well. Sources told NBC Sports last summer Magic tended to “parachute in” for a few days a month in the office, throw down a lot of edicts, then leave it for others to clean up the mess.

Magic apparently came to the realization he wasn’t doing the job well and he wasn’t happy doing it. Tuesday, in an impromptu, rambling, emotional and at times tear-filled 40-minute press conference before the Lakers final game of the season, Magic stepped down as the Lakers president of basketball operations. He told the assembled media before he even told team owner — and his good friend — Jeanie Buss.

Buss was not in the building on Tuesday, Magic said they would speak tomorrow. However, Buss Tweeted about it later.

While Magic denied this had anything to do with Lakers’ coach Luke Walton — who Johnson had been given the green light to fire and was expected to do so in the next 24 hours — he later said this.

Magic also had moments where he sounded like a politician looking to spin things. Or maybe a little delusional.

Johnson said one situation that weighed on him was the situation with Ben Simmons. The young Sixer — a 6’10” ball handler, a pass-first player who has some similarities with Magic — reached out to the Lakers’ legend about mentoring him about the game. Magic couldn’t do it because of potential tampering rules, neither the Sixers nor Lakers wanted any part of it. Johnson said that is the kind of thing he wants to do, the type of role he wants to play.

Magic may feel better, but it leaves the Lakers in chaos.

Is Luke Walton going to be fired? He and his staff reportedly expected the ax to fall in the next 24 hours. Now… who knows? If it is up to Walton backer Jeanie Buss, Walton will likely be around for a while.

Who is going to lead the Lakers into a crucial offseason and set a direction as they try to land another superstar and build a roster around LeBron James? Do the Lakers get a new president of basketball operations? Promote GM Rob Pelinka, or does he move on, too?

Jeanie Buss removed her own brother and long-time Laker loyalist Mitch Kupchak at the urging of Magic, and she trusted him to run the basketball operations “the Laker way.” It turns out that Magic didn’t know how to build an organizational culture, he seemed to think the Laker brand was a culture. Now the burden falls on Buss to find someone else to right this Lakers’ ship, which will sit out the playoffs for a franchise-record sixth straight season.

Nets reportedly extend Caris LeVert on 3-year, $52.5 million deal

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The Brooklyn Nets have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and that’s going to be important for the next half-decade or so. Those two players will shoulder the bulk of Brooklyn’s championship hopes over that time frame.

But so too is it important for the Nets to keep a strong team around its superstars. Too many teams seem to end up top heavy as they try to chase championships year after year.

To that end, Brooklyn has reportedly signed their own budding star Caris LeVert to an extension that takes him through 2023.

Via ESPN and Twitter:

LeVert’s extension starts at $16.2 million in 2020-21 and escalates to $17.5 million and $18.8 million in the next two years, ESPN’s Bobby Marks reported.

The deal gives LeVert security and a chance to return to free agency or negotiate an extension before his 28th birthday.

LeVert’s extension is worth a reported $52.5 million, which makes him reasonably paid within the team context and should give him a chance to cash out yet again before he hits age 30.

This season will be an interesting look into how LeVert and Irving work together on the floor without Durant. They can get into some kind of rhythm and find an understanding between them, which is going to be vital for when Durant eventually returns in 2020.

Team USA sees betting odds in World Cup skew downward

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Team USA is 12 man roster is now set, and they are prepared to take on the rest of the world in the 2019 FIBA World Cup In China with summer.

The United States finally lost a game for the first time in 13 years on Saturday, falling to Patty Mills and Australia, 98-94.

But despite that loss, the United States is still the odds-on favorite to win the World Cup this year. Then again, their odds have started to slip since the start of the summer.

According to Westgate, the United States is favored at 4/7 to take home the gold. Team USA originally opened at 1/5. Now some other teams have moved up in oddsmakers’ minds.

Via Westgate and Action Network:

  • United States: 4/7
  • Serbia: 2-1
  • Greece: 10-1
  • Spain: 20-1
  • France: 25-1
  • Australia: 30-1
  • Lithuania: 60-1
  • Canada: 100-1

Serbia seems like a pretty good shot to usurp the throne for the United States. Nikola Jokic has said that he wants his team to medal, but no doubt he and his squad will be looking for a gold medal.

The United States is suffering from a lack of continuity and star power. That might not matter given that Gregg Popovich is still the head coach and USA Basketball far out matches other countries in terms of raw talent.

But as we saw in 2004, talent doesn’t trump all when it comes to Team USA. The door is open for other countries to grab the top spot for the time being, and oddsmakers think so as well.

Rui Hachimura pumped when friend Sumo wrestler Hakuho drains free throw

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Rui Hachimura, the Gonzaga star drafted ninth by the Washington Wizards, is having a blast this summer playing for his native Japan as their national team gears up for the World Cup in China starting in one week.

However, he may never have been more pumped than when his friend, legendary sumo wrestler Hakuho, came out in his robes and drained a free throw.

The Wizards have to get Hakuho to a game this season, let him take a few shots during a timeout. We all need to see this.

And Hakuho was nothing, another sumo wrestler walked out in robes and drained a straight-on three.

I need to see a sumo wrestler pickup game now more than I need anything else in my life. I want to see the battle for post position.

Hachimura has played well for Japan, he dropped 31 points on Germany in the final tuneup game for the World Cup, showing off a comfort level from the midrange that is impressive. He hit shots off the dribble and on the catch.

Hachimura and Japan are in the same group as Team USA in the World Cup, and the two teams face off Sept. 3 in Shanghai.

Enes Kanter says he might add ‘American’ name once he’s a U.S. citizen (VIDEO)

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Enes Kanter has been dealing with being a man without a country for some time. The Turkish-born Boston Celtics center has openly criticized Turkish president Recep Erdoğan, And as such he is no longer welcome back in his home country.

In fact, Kanter didn’t have a valid Turkish passport this past spring, so the question of whether he might be able to re-enter the United States if he went to Canada was raised by several Portland Trail Blazers fans, including Senator Ron Wyden.

Kanter has been in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen for some time, and he appears close to that goal. As such, Kanter mentioned this week that he might add an “American” name onto his name when that happens.

Speaking to TMZ, Kanter said that, “I’m actually becoming a U.S. citizen in two years: I’m actually thinking about adding an American name. I’m still thinking about it. I don’t know yet.”

One of the newest Celtics, Kanter appears to have a diplomatic way about him and the ability to network with folks higher up. Given amount of time, resources, and potential political power behind him as an NBA player, there is hope that he will become an U.S. citizen.

Whether Kanter really wants to add an ”American” name — whatever that’s supposed to mean — is anyone’s guess. One of the founding principles of this country is the concept of the melting pot, and so a great American name for Enes Kanter would be… Enes Kanter.