Archives For Laker News

If you thought this Magic Johnson story was just going to settle in and not produce any more headlines, it seems that was a mistake. While at the UCLA vs. Oregon men’s basketball game game on Thursday night in Los Angeles, Magic offered more insight into what he ultimately wants out of his new position as “advisor” to Jeanie Buss.

Josh Peter at USA Today has the story:

Magic Johnson said he wants to “call the shots’’ for the Los Angeles Lakers, a week after it was announced he has rejoined the team as an adviser to owner Jeannie Buss.

“Working to call the shots, because it only works that way,’’ Johnson told USA TODAY Sports when asked what he hopes his role with the franchise will be. “Right now I’m advising. I get that. But at the end of the day, then we all got to come together and somebody’s got to say, ‘I’m making the final call,’ all right? And who’s that going to be?

“So, we’ll see what happens.’’

Johnson, the former Lakers great, said the decision about his role rests with Jeannie Buss, whose brother Jim has been in charge of the franchise since their father, Jerry, died in 2013. During the 2013-14 season, Jim Buss said he would step down after three to four years if the franchise was not yet competing for NBA titles again.

Let’s unpack that quote because there’s a lot there.

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Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss met with Hall of Famer and former Lakers point guard Magic Johnson on Tuesday night, sources with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN.

The exact nature of the meeting was not immediately clear, but sources said Buss has been soliciting opinions on the direction the franchise should take moving forward, after three straight losing seasons and possibly a fourth, with the Lakers already having lost 31 games this season.

The above is from a piece from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne back in mid January. As Shelburne noted (and I have heard similar things), Jeanie Buss has been talking to folks about the direction of the Lakers and Magic, who is “like a brother” to her, is a natural sounding board for such discussions.

Well, it turns out, that discussion may have been more than just a friendly conversation and more like a precursor to what will now be a true working relationship. Because today it was announced that the Lakers have hired Magic to an advisory position. From the team’s press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers today announced that Earvin “Magic” Johnson will return to the Lakers to assist Jeanie Buss in all areas of basketball and business as an advisor…

…Johnson’s duties will include, but not be limited to, advising ownership on all business and basketball matters, collaborating with coaches, evaluating and mentoring players, assessing future franchise needs, and helping ownership to determine the best path for growth and success. Johnson will spend time at Lakers offices in El Segundo and will report directly to Jeanie Buss.

That sound you hear is Jim Buss’ job security taking nose dive.

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Just as they did for the Team USA Select Team, the Lakers’ most recent lottery selections will be teammates in the Rising Stars Challenge held during All-Star weekend in New Orleans:

The league will again make the format of this game “USA vs. the World”, so sophomore Russell and rookie Ingram will be on the same roster facing off against the likes of Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid, and Emanuel Mudiay among others.

 

This is a nice honor for both players. Every year there seem to be guys left off — last year, for example, Julius Randle did not play in this game even though he’s a former lottery pick who has a high upside — who have a good argument to make the team. This year, one might even argue that Ingram might not deserve to play in this game, regardless of his draft status. I’d counter with his play in the last 15 games as an example of why he should be there, but he made it so no need. Ha.

Anyway, I like any environment where the team’s young guys get exposed to more talent and good coaching. This game won’t be “serious” nor will it count for anything, but just to have these guys invited, seeing what the all-star experience is for the guys who make the big game, and getting enough of a taste to (hopefully) continue to inspire their work ethic to some day get there themselves is a nice carrot for them.

In a bit of a twist I certainly did not see coming, the Lakers have worked out former Rockets big man Donatas Motiejunas. From ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne:

The Los Angeles Lakers have auditioned free-agent big man Donatas Motiejunas within the past week, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN that the Lakers brought Motiejunas in before Christmas to work out in front of the front office and coaching staff, but it remains unclear whether they’ll go ahead with signing the former first-round pick.

Apparently, the hold up in potentially offering Montiejunas a contract has to do with the current depth in the front court and how that might disrupt current roles:

But sources said the Lakers are weighing whether there are enough minutes to go around, with the blossoming Julius Randle and Tarik Black playing the bulk of the frontcourt minutes while Nance is out.

The fact that the Lakers are still kicking the tires on available players and looking to add talent is a good thing. Regardless of how much they like the construction of the current team, adding talented players who fit the team’s scheme should always be on the table — and Montiejunas certainly fits that description.

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The walking wounded Lakers may have reinforcements coming. Both D’Angelo Russell (at least 2 weeks) and Nick Young (2-4 weeks) are in the window of time in which they may be ready to return and it looks like it will happen for both sooner than later:

Luke Walton also noted that Nick Young practiced fully on Saturday, with the implication he too should return shortly. So it looks as though Sunday’s game against the Knicks is a realistic target for Russell, with Monday looking almost close to certain. Young could potentially join him on Monday.

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The Lakers are the proverbial walking wounded right now. Nick Young is out with a strained calf. Jose Calderon is out with a strained hamstring. In Monday’s loss to the Jazz, Tarik Black sprained his ankle and did not return to the game. Larry Nance, Jr. sat out the game vs. the Jazz with a knee contusion. And, of course, D’Angelo Russell has been out with knee soreness and the resulting PRP injection he took to stimulate healing. That’s four key rotation players and the point guard who has replaced Russell while he’s been out.

There may be some good news on the horizon, though. At least in terms of Russell.

Russell’s initial diagnosis was that he’d be out at least two weeks. We are approaching that mark now, so it’s good to hear that he is (essentially) on schedule. Though he will not travel on Wednesday (which would be 14 days since the injection), the fact that he is progressing enough to get back on the court is promising. This doesn’t mean he will be ready to play by weeks end, though.

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The Lakers cannot catch a break on the injury front. After leaving the Grizzlies game with a hamstring injury on Saturday, an MRI has confirmed a strain in the muscle per a team release. Calderon will be out 2-4 weeks, joining D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young as other guards who are not healthy enough to play.

Calderon had performed admirably as a fill-in starter for Russell, averaging 6 points and nearly 4 assists while shooting 47.8% from the field (42.1% from distance) in 17 minutes a night. These aren’t world beater numbers by any means and he had his (predictable) issues defensively, but considering he’d not been in the rotation at all following the first Hawks game early in the year, he did well to step in the way he did.

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After Nick Young left Tuesday’s loss to the Pelicans with what was originally being called a strained achilles tendon, we have been waiting on this MRI results to get the official word. Those results are now in and, per the Lakers, Young has a strained calf muscle in his right leg and is out 2-4 weeks.

This is both a dose of good news and stroke of bad luck/timing that will be difficult to manage.

On the good side, whenever the words “achilles” are tied to an injury report and an MRI is needed, I have trepidations. I know full tears can usually be diagnosed without an MRI, but the possibility of a partial tear or damage to the achilles in general could have taken him out of the lineup for a lot longer than the 2-4 week estimate.

That said, the Lakers will now be without Young for upwards of a month which is a major blow to their lineup. As their starting shooting guard, Young plays 25 minutes a night and scores 13 points a game. Replacing those minutes and production is not a minor feat. Further, Young is one of the team’s best 3-point shooters, connecting on 41.8% of shots behind the arc while taking 6 attempts a night. And this says nothing of the fact that Young is often asked to guard the other team’s best wing scorer.

There’s simply no replacement on the roster who can step in and mirror Young’s skill set. (Imagine saying this two months ago! Life comes at you fast.)

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