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Reports: Magic Johnson wanted to fire Rob Pelinka, who’ll instead keep (maybe gain) power within Lakers

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As Lakers president Magic Johnson could seemingly do whatever he wanted, including not work very hard. Until his stunning resignation yesterday, Johnson was clearly set to fire coach Luke Walton.

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN:

But you also hear that he may have wanted Rob Pelinka gone, and there was resistance there.

Now, I spoke to Jeanie Buss, and I spoke to Rob Pelinka. And both categorically and emphatically denied that there’s any truth to that whatsoever. But in the hours and the days to come, you’re going to hear that nugget of information percolating and really resonating.

This has been percolating for months: Rob Pelinka might go into the office or into the Lakers facility, “Hey guys. How are you doing? Where’s Magic Johnson?” knowing that Magic Johnson wasn’t there in an effort to bring attention to the fact that Magic Johnson wasn’t there.

Of course, Rob Pelinka has denied that, as well. And in fairness to him, there are people out there that are his enemies, that have never liked him, and they will talk about him. And to his defense, some people might make some stuff up. I’m just telling you, you’re hearing these kinds of things. And you were hearing these kinds of things in the days leading up to Magic Johnson announcing it.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The team is still assessing Johnson’s decision, but general manager Rob Pelinka will stay in his job, and, if anything, his power will grow, sources told Shelburne.

Johnson and Pelinka were an odd president-general manager pairing. They lacked experience in basketball operations, and they had no clear prior connection. Johnson was a great Lakers player. Pelinka was Kobe Bryant’s agent. That was it.

So, it wouldn’t be surprising if their relationship turned contentious.

That said, as Smith noted, Pelinka has rubbed plenty of people the wrong way. It’d be easy for people who dislike him to smear him.

But whatever people think of Pelinka personally, the Lakers’ roster construction is, as LeBron James said, “[fart noise].” Maybe that’s all Johnson’s fault. But I certainly wouldn’t keep Pelinka without him explaining his role in the front office’s many missteps.

Considering the Lakers’ resources, they should probably do better than just promoting Pelinka. And if they hire a new team president, that person should have authority to choose underlings. Pelinka shouldn’t be part of the package. If Jeanie Buss insists Pelinka stays, that will turn off candidates.

There’s still so much of this situation to uncover. The Johnson-Pelinka dynamic isn’t totally clear. With Johnson blindsiding everyone, I’m not sure the Lakers are set on their next steps, including how to handle Pelinka.

But Johnson said something yesterday that sure fits this narrative:

What I didn’t like is the backstabbing, the whispering. I don’t like that. I don’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on.

Minnesota signs undrafted rookie Naz Reid to multiyear deal

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have signed rookie center Naz Reid to a multiyear contract, upgrading the two-way deal they initially gave him before a strong performance for the team’s entry in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

The new contract, completed Thursday, all but ensures that Reid will be on the regular-season roster, after going undrafted out of LSU.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic broke the story.

The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Reid averaged 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.6 minutes over seven summer league games against other clubs largely composed of rookies and second-year players. The Timberwolves’ team reached the championship game.

Reid averaged 13.6 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds in his lone season at LSU, which reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Bulls bring back Shaquille Harrison on one-year contract

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Shaquille Harrison started last season as an afterthought at the end of the Chicago Bulls’ bench. Then, because Cameron Payne was not good and Kris Dunn got injured (and was really not that good, either), Harrison got his chance — and took it. He was a defender Fred Hoiberg and then Jim Boylen could trust, and he played in the final 72 Bulls games last season at almost 20 minutes a night.

He will be back with the Bulls next season, the team announced.

While not announced, this is a one-year minimum contract. The Bulls waived Harrison back on July 6 as they remade the roster, but Harrison played one game at Summer League for the Bulls and they decided to bring him back.

Harrison is a Boylen favorite — he plays hard and defends well — and while minutes will be harder to come by behind Tomas Satoransky and Coby White, Harrison is a guy Boylen wants on the bench.

Dunn is on the roster at point guard, too, but the Bulls are rumored to be looking to trade him and his $5.4 million salary. Chicago will likely have to throw in a sweetener, like a decent second-round pick, to make that happen.

Nike countersues Kawhi Leonard over ‘Klaw’ logo

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“My mind on my money and my money on my mind.”
—Snoop Dogg

Nike and Kawhi Leonard are going to court over control of his “Klaw” logo, and it’s all about money and brand.

Leonard left Nike last season, eventually signing with New Balance, and he wants to be able to market his Klaw logo as part of his line with his new company. Leonard and his representatives sued Nike for control of the logo, saying Leonard came up with it in his own drawings.

Nike has countersued and said Leonard did not design the logo. Tim Bontemps of ESPN had these quotes from the countersuit itself.

“In this action, Kawhi Leonard seeks to re-write history by asserting that he created the ‘Claw Design’ logo, but it was not Leonard who created that logo. The ‘Claw Design’ was created by a talented team of NIKE designers, as Leonard, himself, has previously admitted…

“In his Complaint, Leonard alleges he provided a design to NIKE. That is true. What is false is that the design he provided was the Claw Design. Not once in his Complaint does Leonard display or attach either the design that he provided or the Claw Design. Instead, he conflates the two, making it appear as though those discrete works are one and the same. They are not.”

TMZ posted the designs.

I’m not about to guess what a judge would decide in this case. Most likely, this gets settled one way or another.

Meanwhile, New Balance is trying to come up with a new slogan for Leonard and his gear. King of the North is now out after his move to the Los Angeles Clippers this summer.

J.R. Smith reportedly meets with Bucks to talk contract

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After five seasons in Cleveland, the Cavaliers waived J.R. Smith. The 34-year-old veteran wing is not part of the Cavaliers future, and by waiving him before the guarantee date they only had to pay him $4.4 million of this $15.7 million salary.

That makes Smith a free agent.

He sat down with the Bucks on Thursday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bucks can only offer minimum contracts at this point.

Smith will turn 34 before next season starts and his skills are in decline, he shot just 30.8 percent from three last season. The Bucks will likely start Khris Middleton and Wesley Matthews on the wing with Sterling Brown, Pat Connaughton, and Donte DiVincenzo behind them. They have the roster spot to make the addition. The questions are does Smith fit, does he want the small role that’s really available, and how often will he wear a shirt around the facility?