Magic Johnson is on damage control after a trade deadline that featured rumors about every single player on the roster not named LeBron James. As it was Johnson who very publicly negotiated with the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis, and as it was those negotiations that probably directly led to a 42-point drubbing at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, it should be Johnson who addresses the team in an effort to regain focus for what will be a grueling playoff race.
Even after a win that seemed to right the ship on Thursday night, Johnson is flying to Philadelphia to do just that, according to Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times.
It’s absolutely the right move.
Sensing that the Lakers have been weighed down by the persistent trade rumors over the last few weeks, Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, plans to meet with the team this weekend in Philadelphia, according to two people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Johnson wants to encourage the Lakers to stay the course and to focus on the task ahead with 27 regular-season games left to play, one person said.
This is what leadership looks like. Johnson is putting himself in what will undoubtedly be a very awkward situation, and one that might very well get heated at times if players are being completely honest.
While it’s easy to say that everyone involved are adults and should be professional, they’re also human beings. Last week couldn’t have been fun:
Johnson will talk to the Lakers about the Anthony Davis trade saga that nearly pulled them under, emphasizing that the NBA is a business and that this franchise is about winning championships and doing all it can to accomplish that goal.
Johnson will listen to every player who wants to speak, hoping to have an open dialogue with his team so they can all move forward together, one person said.
It’s hard to predict what some of the players whose names were involved in the reported offers to New Orleans (read: everyone) might be willing to say. Johnson is still their boss, and will likely throw them back into trade offers this summer if and when trade talks open back up for Davis. But no matter how the discussions go, they have to put all that behind them if they want to be able to scratch and claw their way to the postseason this year.
That’s exactly what Johnson reportedly plans to tell the team:
Johnson will tell the Lakers that it is their responsibility to be professional and to play their best basketball so they can make the playoffs in the uber-tough Western Conference, one person said.
I’m also curious to see whether LeBron gets involved with this discussion, seeing as it was his agent trying to unite him with another Klutch Sports client. James has commented previously on the trade rumors, and maintained a somewhat calloused stance on it, but if he’s going to try to make moves that hinder his teammates’ agency (all the while speaking out in support of player agency), he should also face the music when those efforts blow up in his face.
The Lakers only have 27 games remaining in their season. They currently sit a game and a half out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Yes, the Clippers traded away their best player in Tobias Harris, but those still playing across the hall from the Lakers would happily do all they can to make it so big brother doesn’t get in.
In Sacramento, the Kings are doing the Lakers a huge favor by having the season they’re having and weakening a Boston Celtics asset, but they made a couple additions during the trade deadline to bolster their roster for the playoff chase. They — and their fans — would love nothing more than to keep the Lakers out of the postseason.
The Lakers will have their work cut out for them, and any distractions will only serve detract from the goal at hand, given how daunting it is. Magic is absolutely right to take this step in trying to repair the locker room. LeBron should follow suit.
The good news is that with last night’s win to build off, Johnson will be talking to a much happier team than he could be. Here’s hoping these talks go well and the team can maintain enough momentum to earn its first playoff birth in half a decade.
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