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Report: Lakers president Magic Johnson viewed as ‘absentee executive’

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Magic Johnson did a nice job setting up the Lakers to land a star free agent last summer. He even lured the biggest star free agent of all – LeBron James.

And then it all went downhill from there.

Johnson had terrible ideas of how to build a supporting cast around LeBron. The Lakers prioritized their notion of tough playmakers – Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley – over shooters. As if LeBron would truly be content playing off the ball. Of course, the player with the greatest combination of scoring and passing in NBA history wanted the ball in his hands. That left LeBron surrounded by ill-fitting, and just plain not-good-enough, teammates.

How did Johnson think this was a good plan?

Maybe by not working hard enough to come up with a better one.

Bill Oram of The Athletic:

Johnson is seen as an absentee executive

If Johnson isn’t putting in the work, that’d be a major problem for the Lakers. He wouldn’t be alone throughout the league, and the Lakers have other executives, including general manager Rob Pelinka. But Johnson is in charge of the front office. Running an NBA team’s basketball operations is a hard job that requires a lot of work to do well. It’s on him to move the Lakers forward – especially because he has so much job security.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has repeatedly stated her faith in Johnson. She also defended Phil Jackson after the Knicks firing him despite him being unprepared, out of touch, unavailable and low energy. Buss just might have too much patience for lackluster work ethics, especially by people she’s close with.

And no wonder Johnson’s comments after not trading for Anthony Davis went over so poorly within the Lakers. Executives who build strong connections with their players can get through those situations. It’s much more difficult when the team president isn’t around to establish a bond in the first place.

To be fair, the Lakers were right to pursue Davis. He’s a superstar. The opportunity to land him justified potential chemistry disruptions.

But that wasn’t the Lakers’ only discussed move that showcases the organization’s flaws.

Oram:

on the weekend of Jan. 25, the Lakers had a tentative deal in place to acquire Bulls forward Jabari Parker in exchange for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Beasley, league sources told The Athletic.

Because he’s on a one-year contract and would have Early Bird Rights, Caldwell-Pope had the right to veto a trade. The Lakers also got into the mix for Davis, putting other deals on the backburner. So, the Parker trade never happened.

But it would have been awful for the Lakers. Parker would have been yet another player who doesn’t do enough without the ball.

At least the Lakers avoided that mistake.

To avoid the next one, they’ll probably need a front-office leader more focused on the job.

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss: “I have 100 percent confidence in Rob Pelinka”

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Internally, the Lakers believe they are on the right track: They signed LeBron James as a free agent, they spent years acquiring assets then turned those assets into Anthony Davis, and they believe the roster that will take the court next season will bring vindication for the front office and ownership group. The Lakers believe they will be back on top, where they belong.

From the outside, um, let’s just say there are doubts around the league. Doubts about all the picks — particularly the pick swaps and deferments — that the Lakers gave up to get Davis and now that could hurt them in the future. There are doubts about the ability of Rob Pelinka to build out a roster around LeBron and Davis that is truly a threat.

Jeanie Buss has no such doubts. Speaking to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times (and other reporters) at the NBA Awards show Monday, Buss expressed nothing but confidence in Pelinka and the Lakers’ staff.

“I’ve always had confidence in Rob, whatever the speculation is out there,” Buss said. “We don’t need outside media to validate the things that we do. I’m very happy and I think we’re on the right path.”

“I have 100% confidence in him in running his basketball operations,” Buss said. “He’s brought us a great new head coach in Frank Vogel, whose teams have had a lot of success in the playoffs and who have played consistently ranking high in defense, which means not only does he emphasize defense but the players buy into his defensive schemes.”

The question isn’t Vogel’s credentials, although how a staff with Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and other veteran coaches with big egos will mesh together is going to be interesting.

The question is talent.

The Lakers have the high end of that with LeBron and Davis, but when you think about the Laker title teams of the past it wasn’t just Shaq and Kobe, it was also Derek Fisher and Robert Horry and Rick Fox and a host of others. The same thing was true in this past Finals — the deeper team won because the Raptors could adapt and handle their star not being 100 percent.

Are the Lakers going to chase another star and then complete the roster with minimum salary players? Or, get two or three quality role players with their cap space to have a deeper team? Has this all been planned out and thought through? Maybe Rob Pelinka builds this roster out beautifully, but we only have one year of experience to judge him on, and that did not go well.

Buss may have confidence, she should, the rest of us are in wait and see mode.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.