In the latest development in what has grown to be one of the weirder and most annoying stories in the NBA thus far this season, apparently the Philadelphia 76ers wanted to clear the air about Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, Ben Simmons, and the fine line between mentoring and tampering.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports that Elton Brand has reached out to Magic to apologize for potentially making it seem like the Lakers initiated discussion of this meeting.
Elton Brand called Magic Johnson Monday afternoon to apologize for insinuating that the Lakers had called —unprompted— to ask permission for Johnson to speak with Sixers forward Ben Simmons in a radio interview Monday morning, league sources told ESPN.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 12, 2019
In interview with @975TheFanatic Brand said, “Rob Pelinka called me and said that Ben wanted to talk to Hall of Famers after the season, Magic was on the list. He asked for authorization... I said no.” He did not mention Sixers had contacted Pelinka first, which prompted the call— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 12, 2019
And in Shelburne’s full story, she reported that “the Sixers, at the urging of one of Simmons’ brothers, had contacted Pelinka first, which is what prompted his call to Brand.”
There are a few likely scenarios here and we never get the full story, so bare with me. The most innocent possibility here is that a Sixers employee really called the Lakers without Brand’s knowledge to ask if Simmons could work with Magic and in re-telling the story, Brand failed to mention that very important detail.
I find it hard to believe that an employee of the Sixers would do this without informing his boss until it was too late, but hey, weirder things have happened I guess.
Shelburne summed this up:
In other words, Ben Simmons had an idea about talking with Magic, his camp (not Rich Paul) talked to someone with the Sixers (not Elton Brand), who then asked the Lakers, who then went back and asked Brand, who said no. Got it?— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 12, 2019
If that is indeed how things played out, that doesn’t make it any less dumb that Magic would talk about said request publicly without being prompted to do so. Given the Klutch connection, he had to have known that the story wouldn’t end there, and that more questions would be asked.
Speaking of questions, what does this mean for the league’s investigation into the Lakers’ communications with Simmons? That feels like toothpaste you can’t quite force back into the tube once it gets out. Before this season, I probably would’ve thought the league would take the Sixers’ word and move on, but they fined Magic for saying Giannis Antetokounmpo would win a championship in Milwaukee. We’re into a really weird spot now, and a new precedent has been set.
Another question I have is why Simmons would first think of Magic Johnson as the big guard he could learn from when right in his own agency sits LeBron James ,and why a Sixers employee wouldn’t guide him in James’ direction instead of the president of basketball operations of another organization.
As we said earlier today, this story is still likely in its infancy, and something about it doesn’t quite sit right. Maybe it’s all innocent and people acted stupidly. As always, that’s a very possible outcome here. But in the NBA, where so many deals are made through backchannels and masked conversations, when something sets off this many red flags, it’s very rarely completely coincidental.
As updates come to this story, we’ll try to summarize them and relay them to you. This likely isn’t going anywhere until the NBA’s investigation (if it’s still taking place) is over at the very least. Stay tuned.