Magic, Jeanie and Rob: Lakers Are Making Moves, But Don’t Wait Up for Paul George

By William Stevenson

We’ve had fun clowning the Lakers and the Knicks over the past few seasons. I regret to think we won’t be able to make fun of the Lakers for much longer. When the Buss family was entrenched in off the court drama, things were looking dim as Luke Walton struggled to impose a defensive structure, injuries hampered the Lakers early on, and nobody could put a finger on who would run the operations for the organization. Fast forward a few months, and Magic Johnson an Rob Pelinka (former agent) are now making smart moves to improve the roster. Everything is a long shot to work out with there being many uncertainties with player development, team chemistry and unknown injuries, but as of right now there is hope.

The Lakers now have 3 first round picks and Brook Lopez after trading away DeAngelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets. With Mozgov gone, they only need to stretch Lou Deng’s contract to make more room. With Russell gone, they can draft Ball with no chemistry issues, but they give up their backup plan. They also do not have to worry about extending Russell or allowing his value to plummet while he adjusted to the 2-Guard position. Paul George wants to come to the Lakers, their first “big star” since Kobe and an injury plagued Dwight Howard. The rumors of Lebron James are back in full effect with Magic Johnson at the helm, and the seemingly utter train wreck that is the front office of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers can trade their number two pick now, package their first rounders for George, or stand around and play the waiting game, which isn’t the best play for a team and fanbase that is starving right now. Waiting till next year to acquire George via free agency is a risky move, especially when the SuperMax is still in play, and you never know what can happen in a year.

Honestly, I wouldn’t wait. Although there is no reason to fork over multiple picks when the Lakers have the leverage over the Pacers, they cannot wait around and hope George fulfills his verbal committment. What if the Pacers decide to sign a marquee free agent (they have cap room to do so), George makes and All-NBA Team, and somehow Myles Turner blossoms the way Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic did last season? Then what? You can’t depend on chance for too long. I’m sure the Nuggets and Blazers had no thoughts of giving the max-max to Jokic and Nurkic last year, but now they must. What if the Lakers struggle once again, Randle and Ingram plateau, and Luke Walton isn’t what Magic and Pelinka want for the Lakers, then what?

Lopez only has one year left, and he can be traded before the All-Star break if need be. Jordan Clarkson is also on a team-friendly contract, and the Lakers are looking to move him as well. As we seen with the Phoenix Suns, acquiring players through free agency doesn’t always work as planned. They were expecting so sign LaMarcus Aldridge, so they signed Tyson Chandler, but then Aldridge spurned the Suns to sign with the Spurs. So be wary Lakers fans and management, the time is now. Don’t wait for other teams to catch up, because as we’ve seen this offseason, the teams at the top are gearing up to take down the Warriors, and you don’t want to get caught watching others take down the throne.

NBA Non-Playoff Run: The Basketball Gods are coming

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By: Will Stevenson

With the end of the NBA regular season coming to an end, the actual basketball coverage continues to dwindle. We have teams at the top of the standings that are just hoping to get to the playoffs without any injuries, teams in the middle jockeying for home court, teams at the bottom still fighting to stay in the playoffs, and the teams trying kinda-sorta to keep their lottery pick. The teams who have no hopes of the playoffs are shutting down veteran players and giving those minutes to the young guys, while those coming up on free agency are showcasing for the offseason. Defense hasn’t been great this season, so those games between losing teams seems unwatchable to most casual NBA fans. The NBA isn’t like most sports as in they have a long season, so marquee matchups down the stretch don’t have the shine as they were suppose to have when the scheduling was being made. More than those who are in the playoffs, lets take a look at the teams we thought would be competing for a playoff spot this year.

  1. Hornets (32-40) 3 GB of the 8th seed
    Kemba Walker has done all he can to keep the Hornets afloat this season. Even with the emergence of Cody Zeller and Frank Kamisky, the Hornets are still a team full of face cards: They can’t outright win with a spade, but they can get a book every now and then with a King of Clubs. Coach Clifford has been able to adjust to the NBA’s rising pace of play by adding more shooters and letting the big men go from the previous roster. The Hornets have one scorer, Kemba Walker, and with them being a below average defensive team, won’t cut it in today’s NBA. Let me not forget about the poor play of Nicholas Batum who is often injured and inconsistent of being a number two player on a given team. The Basketball Gods have awarded the Hornets with Kemba, but it seems as though everything else is just average: Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, Kaminsky, Zeller, Batum and Joseph Forte… I mean Jeremy Lamb.

2. Timberwolves (28-43) 6.5 GB of the 8th seed
50-32, that was pretty much the consensus after Tom Thibodeau was named the Head Coach in the offense. With the play of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach Lavine, we had high hopes the Wolves we become the Western Conference darlings, much like the Trailblazers last season. We must have forgotten about the ability to learn team defense and the fact their young stars are just that: Young. Even before the season started, Coach Thibs didn’t like his roster as rumors of old Bulls being traded to the Wolves circulated. Wiggins still hasn’t been able to match is on-ball defense with his offense, and the Wolves aren’t adapting to the 3pt barrage as the rest of the league as of yet.

3. Lakers (21-51) 2nd worst record in the league
New coach, new system, but the same players. The Lakers came out the gate average, but they played with energy, hustle, and ESPN showcase defense. After the injury to Russell, it all fell apart and the run to keep that Top 3 protected pick in this year’s draft was the only thing to shoot for. I didn’t think the Lakers would make a playoff run, but I imagined them winning 30-35 games this season. Maybe the Basketball Gods will punish the Lakers again and knock them out of the lottery this season. Only can only hope.

4. Pelicans (30-42) 5 GB of 8th seed
Anthony Davis. That’s pretty much the team in a nutshell, but after an offseason spending on mediocre role players, the Pelicans were looking to be a team of 3 and D. Jrue Holliday , Tyreke Evans, and Quincy Pondexter started out the season on the IR, and Buddy Heild was shooting like the Raptors in last year’s playoffs. Then, the Pelicans pulled off a ransom for Demarcus Cousins. They were 3GB of the 8th seed at that point, and they’ve been falling since. 30 games isn’t enough to say the “Fire and Ice” experiment failed, or to move Boogie in the offseason if they can’t extend him, or to fire Alvin Genty, but the Pelicans must figure out if they want to resign Holliday and keep the team they have for the next few seasons. Once, again, I’m hoping the Basketball Gods give the Pelicans a Top 3 pick. In that case, the Kings would lose out on the opportunity to have 2 lottery picks this season. Or maybe the Pelicans don’t deserve to have a lottery pick this year. I’m conflicted.

5. Blazers (33-38) 1.5 GB of the 8th seed
We see it all the time in sports. A team stays hot and overachieves during a season, and then they overcomplicate things in the offseason which makes the next season impossible to replicate. The Blazers were flying high as they lost in the second round to the Warriors last year. They have two guards that could score form any place on the floor, 3 and D winds, and athletic big men who could run the floor and make plays from the high post. It all went downhill with the explosion of the Salary Cap last summer. The Blazers needed to hit the salary floor and add players to a roster that seem pretty good, and young. They paid Mo Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli. Harkless is average, Crabbe is average, Evan Turner needs the ball to perform, and Festus hasn’t played a game this season. Offense is the trend this season, but if your guards can’t stop penetration and your bigs can’t defend the rim on a consistent basis, then a bad shooting night will result in multiple losses.

6. Bulls (34-39) 1.5 GB of the 8th seed
Breaking News: The Bulls have signed Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade. I knew it was downhill from there. After the Bulls let Noah go and traded Derrick Rose, I figured they would be going in a younger direction, even with Taj Gibson outplaying Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic at every turn. I figured, and I was wrong. The Bulls decided to go against conventional and analytical wisdom to pick up two over-thirty-non shooting-high usage players to their team. Even after the high 3pt percentage games to start out the season and a Wade game-winner, the Bulls fell back to earth as they should  have. They ended up trading Gibson and McBuckets to the Thunder for Cameron Payne, and lost Wade to injury a few weeks ago. To no surprise, they’ve played better without him. Rondo’s play on the court hasn’t been the issue this year as he has played well off the bench. I don’t know what the Bulls will do this offseason, but I do not want to see them get swept by the Cavaliers if they make the playoffs. If by chance, the Kings get screwed in the lottery and they land outside the top 10, the Bulls will get that pick. I don’t know what the Basketball Gods will do this summer.

For these franchises, the season was full of hope back in October. Whether it was injury or inconsistent play, these teams will fin d themselves in the lottery if they don’t make a final push to be swept in the playoffs.  If not, there’s always Tinder.

The Magic Jeanie: The Lakers clean house

Will Stevenson

Jeanie Buss is spreading her wings. I feel like Jeanie is getting her groove back after all those years being stuck listening to the same song, over and over again. The simple fact that Magic Johnson was made President of Basketball Operations, two days before the trade deadline, in February is odd timing. Magic was hired almost a month again, and he’s been on a “I’m taking your job” tour ever since. The talk yesterday was centered around the Demarcus Cousins trade and how the Lakers did not obtain him.  Instead they decided to keep Brandon Ingram. Even funnier than that sentence: Neither Magic nor Jeanie Buss were consulted about the possible trade by Jim Buss or Mitch Kupchak. Let’s go back a few years to gain some perspective.

There was Jeanie, saddened after the death of her father, leaving her and her brother Jim to run the franchise. Kobe started to break down, Phil Jackson was fired, and the Lakers were free-falling into mediocrity. In 2014, Jim Buss announced that he would step down if the Lakers weren’t making deep playoff runs. Why he said that, I don’t know. With the Kobe contract around their neck and a coaching carousel that had them paying four head coaches at one time, the Lakers began to whiff on the one thing they thought they could count on: Big-Time Free Agents. The Lakers have been able to draft Russell, Clarkson, Randle, Ingram and Nance Jr, so it’s not as if they haven’t scouted well for young talent. The Lakers have been stuck in rafters, rather than the product on the court. The Kobe send off took three years of development, and having Byron Scott at the helm didn’t help at all. What could the Lakers do to regain relevancy?

Magic Johnson has a mouth-piece that only Jerome from Martin could respect. Magic sat back and waited for his opportunity to take the Lakers. The only way Jeanie could free herself from this Hollywood nightmare was to divorce all the men that have been in her life, starting with Phil Jackson. Phil was fired from the Lakers, and took the opportunity to join the New York Knicks front office.  What a garbage truck juice fire that has been. Jeanie got rid of Phil through a tweet, and with that transaction happening, Magic was only inching closer to his position. The Lakers hired Luke Walton as their head coach, and things seemed to be looking up for the coming season. Then, Kupchak and Buss decided that Loul Deng and Timofey Mozgov were the priorities of the free agent landscape. Magic continued to bash Jim Buss on Twitter as his timeline was becoming an actual deadline, and with the Lakers having a record that could ensure them a top 3 pick in this years draft, things were coming to fruition.

So yesterday, Jeanie freed herself totally. She rid herself of her basketball connections with Jim Buss, the man everyone in LA wants to blame for their recent struggles. She also fired Mitch who’s been at his position since 2000, and even some PR staffing. Jeanie cleaned house and aligned herself with a Laker great that would captivate the fan base and bring some much need flare back to the Lakers.

Think about it, who’s going to fire Jeanie Buss? Who’s going to fire Magic Johnson? Nobody, that’s who. Magic has another day or so to wheel and deal before the deadline, and will be the decision maker when it comes to player personnel. The Lakers were supposed to take a step forward this year, but there is no step forward if the management style continues to be the same as it has always been.

A sister fired her brother yesterday. The Lakers found a way to upstage the Knicks and the Kings at incompetence during a time in which the Knicks and the Kings were dominating the headlines for that very thing.

2016 Lakers: Boyz II Men or The Five Heartbeats

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By Will Stevenson

Four brothers, brought together for one cause and not by choice. Almost every young man who touches a basketball or laces up their shoes dreams of becoming the man. As it was eloquently put, “Some *&^%%$@ want to be the man, just cause”, and in lament terms; some people want to be the man, just because the opportunity has revealed itself. For some people, working together to satisfy a specific goal is the ultimate team concept, but for the Los Angeles Lakers, taking on that concept would be an hypocritical stance that will be a hard one to get through.

For the past two years, possibly four, the Lakers have shown them that winning at all costs isn’t always the main objective.  After the passing of Dr. Buss and the Kobe/Dwight/Nash debacle that ended with Kobe tearing his achilles tendon and Dwight’s lingering shoulder, we all realized something that summer; Nobody wants to play with Kobe and his aging. The Lakers whiffed on every possible big named free agent; Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Lamarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard, Kevin Love and etc. We can blame Lil Buss, or Jeanie Buss, or Phil Jackson’s departure, or the Kobe Lifetime contract, or style of play, or the fact that Kobe was not relinquishing his title on this team. And that’s what we will address today.

Kobe’s gone, now what? Byron Scott is gone, now what? Jordan Clarkson, DeAngelo aka first guy to get snuffed on The Wire for snitching Russell, and Julius Randle have been patiently waiting for this moment: Kobe has retired and now it’s my turn to be the man. With the drafting of Brandon Ingram out of Duke with the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft, something funny happened and it all started with a quote from Ingram, “I want to bring leadership and professionalism to this team”. I know Lakers fans are like YES, finally, someone to step in and take us to where we need to be. But with those words, he may have started something that will be tough to overcome.

Remember when Lebron was drafted, and Ricky Davis still considered himself to be the man on the team after averaging 20ppg the season before that was capped by dunking over Steve Nash? He was traded very quickly thereafter. This is what this is, but different. Ingram is 18/19, fresh out of college and a lottery pick. He’s eager to be the face of the franchise because, well, it’s finally open with the departure of Kobe. I mean, who doesn’t want to be king? But in stepping into those shoes, he may have stepped on those he will need to accomplish the winning.

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