With the NBA trade deadline now two games behind them and an insane playoff chase ahead, the Los Angeles Lakers have to find a way to let bygones be bygones after a turbulent and publicly embarrassing trade deadline. To that end, Magic Johnson met with the team to either hug them or call them babies; though it’s hard to tell which.
After a blowout loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, a few guys were asked about that meeting and gave some fairly lukewarm responses (it should also be pointed out they had just lost, so it’s not like they were in such a great mood to wax poetically about their fearless leader).
Kyle Kuzma played the best game of any of the Lakers, and was also the most forthcoming about the meeting (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“We just hashed it out. It is what it is. At the end of the day, basketball is a business, and we as professionals have to know that and play through whatever.”
This is pretty much the company line for any team that goes through a trade deadline. But the Lakers are a special case, as nearly the entire roster was made available in trade discussions for Anthony Davis. That wasn’t so much a factor as the youth across the roster, though, according to Kuzma:
“It is what it is. 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.”
Still, as Kuzma points out, the Lakers have to move on.
Kuzma on Magic's meeting: "Everybody always preaches professionalism and buying into the team, and we’re past the trade deadline. We honestly should stop talking about it because it really doesn’t matter right now. The only thing that matters is trying to get into the playoffs. "— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) February 11, 2019
LeBron James said that the meeting was Magic’s call, and Magic’s call to make, but wouldn’t expand much further than that:
”He runs the team and he felt the pulse of the team throughout the trade deadline, or whatever the case may be, but just having him around whenever that may be is good for the ball club.”
Then, the ever-verbose Brandon Ingram chimed in with some kind of word salad on how to move forward and what Magic being there meant:
”Just to continue to stay connected, try to connect even more. This is a team that we just have to keep pushing forward.
”(Magic’s) presence just being here, it sets the boundary, sets the tone. He just talked about connectivity and we can just get better over the course (of the rest of the season).”
But no response summed up the mood about the meeting and this last week or so better than JaVale McGee, who wasn’t all that interested in talking about this any longer:
JaVale McGee was asked how he felt about what Magic said.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) February 11, 2019
"I felt good. How am I supposed to answer that? How did I feel? Tingly inside? I don’t know."
Was it productive?
"Yeah, I got so much out of it. It’s crazy. (deep exhale) I don’t get what you’re trying to ask."
Honestly, it’ll be nice to get back to basketball and put the trade deadline that wasn’t completely behind the team. Based on some of these responses and some of what we heard from Magic, himself, though, it’s fair to wonder if that can even happen. Remember, the Davis trade didn’t fall apart because the Lakers decided enough was enough in terms of the players they were offering. They walked away because of the number of picks.
As easy as it is to demand professionalism, these are still human beings. Fortunately, the Lakers have the All-Star Break coming up and might get some time away from each other and the front office. Hopefully, that time and a few wins can start the healing process.