If one was to assign blame for the way the Los Angeles Lakers finished last season, the trade deadline debacle would fall somewhere on the list shortly after injuries and roster construction.
Magic Johnson touched on how those negotiations went down while on ESPN’s “First Take,” and says despite the role those talks played in derailed the season, he has no regrets about how any of it went down:
“I’m not a regretful guy... You’re right, I offered a lot of guys, but you have to do that for an Anthony Davis. He’s a special player, and the guys that we were going to trade to the Pelicans are special as well.
“I told Dell Demps, let’s just do it in private. What we offer, let’s just keep it between us. But Dell didn’t do that. So that’s how it got out... (Trajan) Langdon and (David) Griffin are a great two hires.”
I’m sorry, Magic, of the various things you said during your appearance, this is quite possibly the furthest thing from the truth. The idea that leaks would only come from one side of such public trade negotiations is farcical.
Maybe the leaks weren’t coming from Magic specifically (I’m dubious, given his relationship with some reporters throughout the landscape of NBA media), but the idea that no leaks whatsoever were coming from the Lakers and that it was only Demps partaking in such weaponization of information is too much to even try to take seriously.
Still, he thinks the young Lakers handled those rumors better than they’ve been given credit for:
“I would say that I told Brandon and all the young guys, Ball, ‘if you’re in the business long enough, you’re name is gonna get mentioned in trades. Don’t take it personally.’ So what happened was by that first week, they did take it personal. And our writers back home wrote a lot of stories, but I give all of (the young guys) credit.
“Brandon Ingram put together a 10-game stretch where he was unstoppable. The things that I thought he could do, he did in those 10 games. I’m telling you Molly, this guy, is special. He guarded Kyrie Irving one night, Kevin Durant another night, so you can play him on different guys, he is special. Now he’s healthy, I’m glad that surgery went well.
“And then Kyle Kuzma scored 29 points after that debacle in Indianapolis in which we just got blown out, Kyle Kuzma went to Boston. 29. He then came to Philly, had 30 at halftime, finished with I think 46 (Editor’s Note: It was actually 39). But he got himself together and started hooping, started playing basketball. And they all did. So I wouldn’t change anything, because that’s my job, is to make the Lakers better.”
It takes quite the nerve to claim that including basically everyone on the roster in some of the most public trade negotiations in NBA history was an effort to make those players better. That’s a hell of a spin, but you do you, Magic.
This is also pretty rich coming from the same guy who criticized the big, bad media for babying said players when they merely wondered what the effect would be of everyone on the roster being included publicly in trade offers, no matter who the player returning might have been.
The only aspect of any of these above quotes that comes off as believable was the pride he showed in Ingram and Kuzma’s performances. I do think he legitimately enjoyed that. But everything else is not far at all from outright lies. Leaking information about trade negotiations is part of that process. Acting like he was too pure for such nonsense is ridiculous, especially when there have been reports outing him as one of the main sources of the rumors. And regardless of who leaked what, acting like those talks were directly responsible in some way for the uptick in production once guys like Kuzma and Ingram could refocus on basketball is delusional.
Even worse than those two things, though, is his repeated message that he doesn’t do regret. Given the way he rewrites history for himself, it makes sense that regret isn’t a concept he pays much mind to. But that isn’t how this works, and this is just the latest chapter of the ever-lengthening book Johnson is somehow writing himself, out loud and on television, about why he never made any sense whatsoever to hold the position of Lakers president of basketball operations in the first place.