Basketball Society’s Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson talks NBA free agency with ESPN Radio’s 97.3 FM. Press Play Below To Listen!
In his role as President of Basketball Operations of the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson set the bar pretty high for himself:
“If I can’t deliver, I’m going to step down myself,” the NBA Hall of Famer turned NBA executive said this week.
“[Lakers owner Jeanie Buss] won’t have to fire me. I’ll step away from it, because I can’t do this job.”
Well, it’s July 1 and the NBA free agency sweepstakes have begun!
We’ve got some million dollar questions:
- Will NBA free agent, LeBron James join the Los Angeles Lakers without a commitment from fellow free agent, Paul George?
- Can the Lakers acquire San Antonio Spurs guard, Kawhi Leonard via trade?
James flew back to the Los Angeles area on Saturday afternoon and will begin meeting with select teams about his next move. I’m told that the Los Angeles Lakers will be one of the first teams that he will meet with. I’m also told by an NBA league source that James “will sign with the Los Angeles Lakers regardless of whatever happens with Paul George or Kawhi Leonard.”
As for George, despite opting out from his current deal, ESPN NBA insider, Adrian Wojnarowski says that Paul George has committed to stay with his current team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Paul George has agreed to a four-year, $137M max contract with the Thunder, league source tells ESPN. Deal includes a player option.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2018
The Philadelphia 76ers are still looking to get Kawhi Leonard. Sixers coach and interim GM, Brett Brown has a relationship with the San Antonio Spurs going guard going back to his days as a staffer and assistant coach with the organization.
The Boston Celtics do have more to offer the San Antonio Spurs in trade assets, however.
The Lakers have some work to do. Magic Johnson’s confidence seemed convincing. While Paul George may have committed in staying with the Thunder, players do not sign officially with teams until July 6. Until that signature is ink, everything is up for grabs.
If you recall the DeAndre Jordan/Clippers/Mark Cuban and Dallas Mavs fiasco a few years back, then you know that it is anybody’s ball game.
The pressure to keep “America’s team” relevant is a thing and Magic Johnson has his work cut out for him.
The Lakers’ Showtime era of Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Byron Scott and more were the hottest ticket in town in the 80s.
The 90s belonged to the Chicago Bulls. But the Lakers were ‘a thing’ again in the early 2000s with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal running things. The Bryant-led Lakers with a supporting cast of Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza were ‘a thing’ in the 2010s.
Bryant is retired now and the Lakers ushered in the Lonzo Ball-era after Bryant’s departure.
But what’s next? LeBron James is perceived likely.
How does one manage that pressure? I asked an executive from another legendary team: the New York Yankees.
“You always feel pressure,” New York Yankees GM and and senior VP, Brian Cashman told Scoop B Radio this week.
“Every deal we do is designed to improve ourselves and get us as closer to a championship.”
The New York Yankees have won six American League pennants and four World Series championships under Cashman’s watch.
Of note, Cashman orchestrated the deal to get Alex Rodriguez to the Bronx Bombers in 2004.
“I always feel pressure that whatever recommendations we make ownership accepts it’s going to benefit them and the fanbase. I know our players, fans and our ownership are counting on us to find ways to get better and that’s always the pressure. It’s real.”
When Cashman began his role in 1998 with the Bombers, he traded fan favorite David Wells to the Toronto Blue Jays to acquire Roger Clemens. The next year, he acquired David Justice, who won the American League Championship Series (ALCS) Most Valuable Player Award for his play in the 2000 ALCS.
Additionally, the Yankees won the 2000 World Series, making Cashman the first General Manager to win World Series titles in his first three years.
Cashman was selected as Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year in 2017 after the superb play of the Yankees last season.
The Yanks made an improbable run during the postseason with the superb play of rookie outfielder Aaron Judge and second-year catcher, Gary Sanchez. During that memorable season, the Yanks made their first appearance in the American League Champion Series since 2012 and were within one game of returning to the World Series after a game 7 lost to eventual World Series champs, the Houston Astros.
Million dollar question for Mr. Cashman: Which trade are you most proud of during your time with the Yankees?
“I don’t have an answer,” he said. “I don’t focus on which ones were the better ones versus which ones didn’t work out.”
“I’m wired to think: always remember the bad ones.”
Meanwhile back at the Los Angeles Lakers ranch, Johnson the executive will need to channel, Johnson the player. After all, Johnson and Larry Bird saved the NBA in 1979.
Late Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, bought the Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979, the same year Johnson was drafted.
“My philosophy is that winning is good and losing is bad,” Buss said after buying the Lakers.
“I am willing to be judged totally on my won-loss record. No excuses.”
Buss’ bravado back then seems as balsey as Johnson’s declaration earlier this week is now.
Johnson led the Lakers to a championship in his rookie year alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Holding a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Johnson left his imprint in the series when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was ruled out of game 6 with an ankle injury.
The 6’8 point guard filled in at center for the 7-foot Abdul-Jabbar and led the Lakers to a 123-107 game 6 victory. The win crowned the Lakers as world champs and introduced the world to Magic Johnson’s clutch play.
Oh and by the way, equally as impressive was Johnson’s game 6 stat line: 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.
Years later, Magic Johnson the executive is now depended on to be as clutch if not more clutch than Magic Johnson the Hall of Fame point guard.
Time is ticking!