With the Los Angeles Lakers getting ready for their regular season to kick off, President of Basketball Operations and resident hype man Magic Johnson made an appearance on ESPN First Take and was rare form.
Let’s just say he’s excited to get this season started.
“We hit what I feel is home run in our first draft, and so Lonzo Ball, I think he’s going to be outstanding this season. LeBron has helped his mindset, and Rondo has helped him out a lot. And then I think Kyle Kuzma had a great rookie season, and I think he’s going to step up and have even a better season this season. And then I think Josh Hart, people don’t understand the toughness, the grittiness... He can shoot, but also he’s a winner.
It’s way too early to say anything about a draft class that feature Moe Wagner, Svi Mykhailiuk and Isaac Bonga. Wagner has been out since Summer League with a knee contusion; Mykhailiuk showed flashes in the Lakers’ last preseason game but looked very much like the No. 47 pick for most of their six games; and Bonga would shock everyone if he saw an NBA court outside of garbage time this season. But Magic is nothing if he isn’t optimistic.
What he said about Lonzo has been a common reprieve, though it will be nice when we start hearing more about Ball in his own right rather than about what the veterans are doing for him once games get underway.
Johnson continued, this time addressing Brandon Ingram, whom he thinks can be special.
”So we have the right combination of young guys with KCP, but I think the star in the making — and LeBron is really going to help him — is Brandon Ingram. He’s big time. He has the length, he has the size, he has the basketball IQ. So we are really happy. JaVale McGee closes down the middle, we didn’t have a shot blocker, so we’re excited.”
None of this is particularly new. We’ve heard basically all of this all offseason. That’s completely beyond Johnson’s control, mind you, as there has been precious little to go off of beyond practices and scrimmages. With the regular season finally kicking off tonight, it’ll be nice to have more to evaluate than a handful of games in which everyone’s top priority is not to get hurt.
The Lakers are smack-dab in the middle of a rebuild that started as soon as Magic and Rob Pelinka replaced Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak. They’re in year one of the LeBron James era. The wait is finally over, and all the talking can finally start to mean less as narrative gives way to facts. If what Johnson says come to fruition, though, the Lakers could be pretty special.
Watch below for full context of Magic’s quotes.