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Lakers owner Jeanie Buss: ‘I have complete faith in Magic Johnson’

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Shortly after she hired Magic Johnson as team president last year, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said she’d be heartbroken if the Lakers didn’t have an All-Star in 2018, when the game was in Los Angeles. Her urgency was apparent.

Of course, the Lakers didn’t have an All-Star last season. None came close.

But then they signed LeBron James this summer, and Buss has changed her tune.

The Rich Eisen Show:

Buss:

I have complete faith in Magic Johnson in terms of his ability to be a leader, to know how to put together a winner. And I have patience. And I think what he’s done has exceeded my expectations, how quickly they’ve kind of turned around the roster.

Johnson has done a great job running the Lakers. He cleared cap space while maintaining plenty of assets and convinced LeBron to sign.

The degree of difficulty on that is… debatable. Perhaps, LeBron just decided to join the Lakers and didn’t need much convincing.

What’s next for Johnson?

Maybe Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee will fit well with LeBron. Maybe Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are ready to compete deep into the playoffs.

I’m skeptical, which means Johnson’s next steps will be tricky. He has more than earned Buss’ faith, and her patience gives him even more latitude to build as he sees fit.

Still, it’s a bit odd to see a team acquire a 33-year-old superstar then shift into a more-patient approach. LeBron’s prime won’t last forever.

It’s on Johnson to maximize it.

LaVar Ball says Lakers are Lonzo’s team, not LeBron’s. Should we care?

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This summer, the Lakers fired a clear shot across the bow of Lonzo Ball. First, they went out and got veteran point guard Rajon Rondo. Then, after Summer League, Magic Johnson effusively praised Josh Hart‘s point guard play, saying he could see Hart starting for the Lakers.

The message to Lonzo was clear — you’re no longer treated like The Golden Child. There will be no codling. You had a good rookie season (the only reason it was seen as a disappointment to some was Magic’s ridiculous praise after the draft set the bar unfairly high), but it’s time to take a big step forward. Show the Lakers you’ve developed a more consistent shot. Show them you can be part of winning right now. Show you can fit with LeBron James and play well off the ball (something he did at UCLA). LeBron is here and the Lakers are about wins now, not development, and if another point guard gives them a better chance to win than Lonzo, the other guy will get the minutes.

Of course, none of that is going to stop LaVar Ball from saying stupid… things. Over-the-top braggadocio has worked for him so far, it’s built him a brand and got him a big Facebook show, why stop now?

The senior Ball’s latest comments came on Los Angeles hip-hop powerhouse radio station Power 106, where LaVar said the Lakers’ are Lonzo’s team, not LeBron’s.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: we all know that’s crap. Anywhere LeBron goes, it’s his team. His locker room. It’s not even up for debate.

LaVar also said Lonzo and LeBron together will win at least two titles.

The question is, do we care anymore what he says? Honestly, I don’t. However, I also have a feeling this story will generate a lot of traffic. I sense a lot of people care.

I doubt LeBron knows or cares what LaVar says. Much like dealing with the current president on Twitter, better not to respond because it drags LeBron down to that level.

Last season in Los Angeles, LaVar and his sideshow were a much bigger deal outside the locker room than in it, where Lakers’ players brushed off LaVar’s antics and comments. Lonzo was bothered least of all. Most players have been around a lot of over-the-top, pushy AAU and college parents, they just tune all that out. As the NBA season wore on, LaVar focused more on his other two sons (and playing in Lithuania).

However, for the Lakers’ organization, LaVar is a distraction. The shot across the bow this summer was not just at Lonzo — the Lakers with LeBron are back near the top of the NBA food chain, and they don’t want the distractions. The Lakers are not going to trade Lonzo because of his father (in fact, it makes him harder to trade, something the team found in talks this summer — a fact not lost on LaVar), but at some point, there may be blowback. The Lakers are now past the rebuilding phase, they want to win now and figure out what players on the current roster can be part of a contender once they land another star (via trade or free agency). Lonzo needs to prove he can stay healthy, his shot has improved, and that he should be part of that future.

If not, he’ll be out. And it won’t matter what LaVar wants or says.

Rajon Rondo: ‘I’m ready to help develop Lonzo as much as possible’

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Rajon Rondo has been many things during his time in the NBA. He was a champion with the Boston Celtics, and was at one time regarded to be one of the best point guards in the league. Most recently, Rondo has bounced around from team-to-team, sometimes alienating his front office and coach while also gaining fierce backing from many of his teammates.

He’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a question mark.

Rondo is also one of the newest members of the Los Angeles Lakers, part of the myriad veteran players LA signed under 1-year contracts during LeBron James‘s first season with the team.

Rondo can still play basketball, although the Lakers did just draft Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 overall pick two seasons ago. As such, there has been some question about which will get more playing time, and what the inevitable relationship will be between the two.

Now, it seems that Rondo is publicly saying that he will be there to help develop Ball in the capacity that he can. While speaking to TMZ, Rondo set as much.

Via TMZ:

I’m ready to help develop Lonzo as much as possible. If I’m not starting and he’s starting, he’s going to be ready to go and ready for anybody that comes his way, and we’ll be ready to roll.

Out of all the goofy guys that the Lakers signed while clearly hedging their bets on the free agency period in the summer of 2019, Rondo seems the most likely to be productive right away. Hehas had two seasons in a row where he has fulfilled a starter/backup role competently. The Lakers still might be a complete dumpster fire this year, even while LeBron wills them to wins, but Rondo could be a productive player in Los Angeles this year.

Anthony Davis: DeMarcus Cousins became ‘enemy’ by leaving Pelicans for Warriors

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Anthony Davis showed his respect for DeMarcus Cousins by wearing Cousins’ jersey during the All-Star game, which Cousins missed due to injury.

But that was when they were Pelicans teammates. With Cousins on the Warriors, Davis views him quite differently.

Davis, via Angel Diaz of Complex:

I’m happy for him. He did what he did. He chose the right team for his career right now with his injury, I’m assuming. I wish the best of luck to him and we’ll see him three maybe four times this year, and try to beat him. Now he’s the enemy. Anybody who’s not on the Pelicans is an enemy to me. He went from a teammate to an enemy.

Davis has an awesome competitiveness. I don’t know his long-term future in New Orleans, but as long as he’s there, the Pelicans will get their money’s worth.

Really, New Orleans has helped instill this attitude in Davis. Jrue Holiday is his only teammate who has been a keeper. Davis is used to moving on when teammates depart. With replacements for DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon RondoJulius Randle and Elfrid Payton – eligible for 2019 unrestricted free agency, Davis can’t get too comfortable with this group.

But he’ll sure try his hardest to make it work for at least next season, just as he did with Cousins before Cousins turned into the “enemy.”

LeBron James on joining Lakers: “I love the challenge”

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LeBron James did something far more important than basketball on Monday — he opened a school in Akron to help the disadvantaged youth of his hometown. He relates to those kids, in a “there but for the grace of my basketball gifts go I” kind of way.

This undertaking was a massive challenge for LeBron and his non-profit, but it wasn’t the only challenge he talked about on Monday. When talking to the assembled basketball media, he discussed the challenge of lifting the Lakers back up to the status that franchise expects (and has been nowhere near in recent years). Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN, from LeBron’s interview with Rachel Nichols of the same network.

“I like the challenge of being able to help a team get to places that they haven’t been in quite a while,” James said. “And obviously the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, but the Lakers organization and historical franchise matches up there with all the greats. You can look at the Cowboys and you can look at the Patriots, you can look at Manchester United, the Boston Celtics — these are like historical franchises. And for me to be a part of that, I think it’s a great move not only for me but for my family and for the history of basketball in general.”

As for the team assembled by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka — a interesting young Lakers’ core with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma, now surrounded by some of the more interesting personalities of the league such as Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Rajon Rondo, and JaVale McGee — LeBron has high expectations.

“We just got guys that love to play basketball,” James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols as part of a wide-ranging sit-down interview Monday at the opening of his I Promise School. “At the end of the day, guys that love to play ball, and that’s what they do every single day, I love that. I love that, and I think [Rob] Pelinka and Magic [Johnson] love that as well, and that’s why they made the signings. And bringing Lance and JaVale and Beas and Rondo, they’re guys that every day that they wake up they think about the game of basketball. And everything else is secondary.”

LeBron is 33, will turn 34 next season, and while he hasn’t slowed down much yet (he just picks his spots more), does he feel the pressure to win another title in LA sooner rather than later?

“I don’t even look at it like that because I don’t feel like this is going to be one of the last years of my prime,” James said. “That’s another statistic number, and I’ve always been a part of beating the odds in life. So being around my kids a lot, it gives me even more and more time in my youth.”

LeBron also said he gave serious consideration to both Houston and Philadelphia, before choosing to move his family to Los Angeles.