Johnson still can dish it out for the Lakers
He says Pelicans didn’t negotiate in good faith and his young players don’t need to be treated like ‘babies.’
PHILADELPHIA — Magic Johnson has no regrets about the public nature of his conversations with New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps during the last two weeks as the Lakers tried to trade for Anthony Davis. Johnson believes his players are professional enough to handle hearing their names in trade rumors.
“Quit making this about thinking these guys are babies, because that’s what you’re treating them like,” Johnson said. “They’re professionals. All of them. This is how this league works. They know it, I know it. That’s how it goes. So we gotta move forward, and we are moving forward. They played outstanding against Boston, give them credit. We need to play well and move on.”
Johnson was asked if he thought New Orleans was negotiating in good faith.
“No,” Johnson said. “We knew that basically at the end of the day what happened, happened. And we knew that when we first started. In terms of what happened. But hey, it is what it is.”
Johnson met with the Lakers as a team and said he had sidebar conversations with a few players to check on their frame of mind. Players had tepid reactions when asked about the meeting after Sunday’s 143-120 loss at Philadelphia.
“We just hashed out, just is what it is,” Kyle Kuzma said after his 39-point performance. “But at the end of the day basketball’s a business, and we as professionals have to know that and play through whatever.
“Obviously we know that, just from being professionals and being around this business and watching it for so many years, you just kind of know, people get traded, people get put on the block, people are always in trade rumors and that’s just how it is. Like I’ve said before, that was our first time around and a lot of us kind of let it get to us, but as professionals we can’t.”
Said JaVale McGee: “I felt good. How am I supposed to answer that? How did I feel? Tingly inside? I don’t know.”
The Lakers reached out to the Pelicans after Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, told reporters on Jan. 28 that his client had requested a trade. Johnson spoke with Demps the next day, and sent a series of offers on Jan. 30.
Although they spoke several times for the next week, Demps never told Johnson what he wanted in return. Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope all were offered to the Pelicans at some point.
Clippers fans yelled “you’re all getting traded!” at the Lakers bench in their Jan. 31 game. During a 42-point loss at Indiana, fans chanted “LeBron’s gonna trade you” as Ingram shot free throws.
The Lakers lost three of four games during the span before Thursday’s trade deadline, then celebrated that night after a buzzer-beating victory at Boston.
Johnson was in Michigan on Saturday for a reunion of Michigan State’s 1979 national championship team and then f lew to Philadelphia to check in on the Lakers.
“They get paid to do a job,” Johnson said. “We’re all professionals. I’ve been in this league 40 years. A lot of players got traded on Thursday. Guess what’s gonna happen next year? A lot of players will get traded. A lot of players will stay home. I talked to our guys; they’re in a good place.”
It was the first time many of them had any interaction with the front office since trade rumors first emerged.
“He runs the team and he felt the pulse of the team either throughout the trade deadline or whatever the case may be,” LeBron James said. “But just having him around, whenever that may be, is always good for the ballclub.”
Asked what having Johnson there does for the team, Rondo said, “nothing.”
Rondo was then asked if he found the meeting productive.
“I don’t know,” he said after a pause. “Everyone’s different. Everyone receives information different. It didn’t translate to a win.”
Ingram, a central figure in the trade discussions, said he found Johnson’s meeting productive.
“Just him, his presence, his presence being here, I think it sets the boundary, it sets the tone,” Ingram said. “He just talked about connectivity and how we can get better over the course.”
MAGIC JOHNSON arrived in Philadelphia to give the Lakers a pep talk, but the result was uninspiring.
BRANDON INGRAM and the Lakers don’t find much success against Joel Embiid and the 76ers.