Lakers' Magic Johnson, Luke Walton evaluating young roster with future in mind: The balcony that oversees the practice court gave Magic Johnson a clear view of the players below it. The setting seemed fitting since Johnson’s presence as the president of basketball operations has cast a looming shadow over the organization. "It’s nice to look up there and see the Magic Man staring down," Lakers coach Luke Walton said, grinning. -- The Orange County Register
Brandon Ingram steps up, and Lakers think they'll see more progress from the rookie: For one half of a game Sunday afternoon, the Lakers saw signs of what they want to see more often from their first-round pick, Brandon Ingram. They saw an aggression with which Ingram doesn’t always play. -- Los Angeles Times
LaVar Ball's royal vision: He sees his son Lonzo in Lakers purple and gold: If you have ever heard or read LaVar Ball say something about his sons, odds are that you rolled your eyes or shook your head. If you’re of a light-hearted temperament, maybe you chuckled. The latest public declaration of Southern California’s most famous basketball father, however, should have elicited another kind of response. Hope -- specifically, hope that he’s right. He envisions his oldest son, UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball, playing for the Lakers next season. -- Los Angeles Times
League sources told ESPN that Calderon is planning to sign with the Golden State Warriors provided he clears waivers Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET.
Sources say Bogut, meanwhile, will speak to officials from the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics before choosing his next team. He also is scheduled to clear waivers Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET.
ESPN reported Sunday that the Cavaliers are the favorites to land Bogut after signing the Australian big man's former Dallas Mavericks teammate Deron Williams on Monday. Two Mavericks sources told ESPN's Tim MacMahon that they expect Bogut to choose Cleveland after he talks to interested teams.
Because both Calderon and Bogut were waived before Wednesday, they retain playoff eligibility with their next team.
Also waived Monday were New York Knicks
Lakers' Jose Calderon faces uncertain future: While Jose Calderon allows his agent to worry about working out a buyout of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, Calderon is just operating as he normally would. “Here it was great,” Calderon said. -- Los Angeles Times
Angry Luke Walton laments Lakers' lack of heart in dismal defeat: San Antonio’s sustained consistency, depth and Hall-of-Fame caliber coaching once provided the Lakers a gauge on their playoff readiness. With the Lakers far removed from that picture in recent seasons, the Spurs have since offered clarity on the gap between both franchises. -- The Orange County Register
Can Lakers model Spurs in front-office synergy?: The Spurs’ decades-long consistency through five NBA championships and 19 consecutive playoff appearances left Lakers coach Luke Walton shaking his head. “It’s insane,” Walton said. -- The Orange County Register
LOS ANGELES -- The San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers compared franchises Sunday morning at Staples Center, and the gap makes the Grand Canyon seem like a ditch. Big market versus small. Flashy versus fundamental. Star-driven versus team-first. Extreme dysfunction versus unshakable consistency. The list could go on for two foes once embroiled in a fierce Western Conference rivalry, but these differences seemed especially stark given what unfolded over the past week.
While the Spurs epitomize managerial stability, togetherness and focus -- which drive their well-oiled machine that has hummed along with surgical efficiency for decades -- the Lakers and their worst-ever struggles represent what happens when too many in power pull in opposite directions for far too long: disaster.
But if the Lakers have for years been a rudderless ship rocking aimlessly in the sea, then they now have hope that their recent in-house overhaul will provide some semblance of direction. Just how much direction won't be known for some time. For now, with longtime executives Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak both sent packing, Magic Johnson is the Lakers' president of basketball operations, and he took in Sunday's affair -- his first Lakers' home game in his new post -- from a Staples Center suite, and he saw the Spurs throttle the Lakers 119-98.
Before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich -- who, like Johnson, is a five-time champion -- weighed in on the Lakers' newest frontman. But Popovich, like many, isn't sure how the former on-the-court legend (and front-office rookie) will help the Lakers emerge from rebuilding status.
"Like everyone else, I would assume, Magic's always been somewhat of an idol in the sense of what he accomplished, what he's done not just on the court but what he did after the court, business-wise," Popovich said. "Hopefully, that will transfer. Hopefully, he will be very successful. I'm one of those people who believes that having really good teams in big cities is important for the league. Sure, we all want to win. But the bigger picture is when big cities have good teams, it's good for everybody."
A rising tide floats all boats, as the trope goes, but the Spurs are an ideal example that market size matters less and less, given how the digital age has reshaped the landscape, allowing players to build massive global brands anywhere. Even so, Popovich acknowledged that certain cities still carry allure -- and Los Angeles arguably tops that list.
"We've been successful, I guess," Popovich said. "That's why some people have come. But you can't deny that markets like New York and Chicago, the big cities, are attractive no matter. No sense in trying to hide that. We've been here [in Los Angeles] four or five nights, and I've had lunches and dinners and wine every day until I can't wait to get out of here. I need to go dry out. No food and alcohol for a while. I just hope half the team shows up today. ‘Are we gonna practice tomorrow?' I'm like, ‘Screw practice. We've got to go to lunch.' It's an attractive place."
But all that good food, wine, sunshine, history, celebrity connections and business opportunities alone aren't enough to draw in top-tier free agents. The Lakers have painfully learned that lesson time and again the past four summers -- including when LaMarcus Aldridge turned them down to join the Spurs in large part because the Lakers had no answers about how to improve their abysmal on-court product.
There were also uncomfortable questions lingering about the Lakers' management structure, especially because Jim Buss announced in 2014 that he would step down in three years if the team wasn't contending by then. If he went, then Kupchak -- the logic went -- was probably out the door too. And then who was in charge? Would Phil Jackson rejoin the organization? Too much uncertainty clouded the future.
Far on the spectrum's other end, Popovich hasn't faced many of these issues, so when he was asked how front-office consistency has impacted his job, he responded, "Easier, better than chaos and conflict, right? [General manager] R.C. [Buford] and I have been together for a long time. So, obviously, that continuity helped us make decisions quickly without animosity and that sort of thing."
He continued, "Well, I've always thought it starts with ownership. I think owners who let people do their jobs end up being more successful in our business. And obviously, if someone has made a lot of bucks doing something else, the pitfall is always to think that you can do that no matter what business you might be in, and some organizations get into trouble because of that. We haven't had that problem.
"So ownership has allowed us to just run the program and keep them informed as we should. After that piece of the puzzle is in place, then it becomes a synergy between management, coaches and players. At that point, it's about people. It's about people that have hopefully gotten over themselves, that are comfortable in their own skins and know how to maturely and objectively agree and disagree. That's totally dependent on people."
The circumstances that Popovich described were once in place for the Lakers, but since their patriarch owner Dr. Jerry Buss died in 2013, everything has seemingly fallen apart -- and the organization continues to operate more like a soap opera than a functional franchise, as The New York Times perfectly illustrated Saturday in the opening paragraphs of a story summarizing last week's coup:
So, the president of the Lakers -- the one who once posed in Playboy and dated the head coach -- created a stir last week by firing her brother, who had helped prepare for his job as the head of basketball operations by training horses.
To replace him, she hired the franchise icon with the incandescent smile whose first day on the job last Tuesday represented the start of his experience as a basketball executive. His first move was to hire a general manager whose primary qualification seems to be that he was the agent of another Lakers icon, the one with the killer scowl.
These novices will be counting on the expertise of the son of the Lakers' éminence grise, who stormed off years ago when he clashed with the head coach, the one who dated the owner's daughter.
"I think we're really fortunate because R.C. and I already had a little of history together from college days, and from day one, ownership really was a hands-off sort of situation," he said. "Compared to a lot of places, we were very, very fortunate."
But the Spurs aren't immortal. One day, they could start losing, which could threaten the front-office synergy they value so much.
"Certainly, that's human nature, especially in a pretty volatile business," Popovich said. "Instant gratification seems to be a factor that runs things the most, as far as whether you can have continuity or not, how long you're gonna wait. And every situation is different. Some programs have money problems, others have talent problems, coaching problems, GM problems. We don't know. Everybody's different in every situation, and it takes time to get all that straight."
The Lakers and their fans might view themselves as different, as exceptional, and in some ways, that is true. But it's just as true that believing those viewpoints helped contribute to their fall. While Johnson observed Sunday's game from a suite, his former teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar watched along the sideline. During a break in the game, he reflected on his former team's situation with measured language that didn't make the Lakers seem exceptional at all.
The Lakers are driven by youth, but, Abdul-Jabbar said, "We have to start somewhere."
The Lakers want a quick fix and, Abdul-Jabbar said, "I'm sure all the die-hard fans are tired of waiting, but a lot of what happens in this league is cyclical."
He noted that Johnson will have to learn plenty on the fly and hoped for his success, but Abdul-Jabbar didn't guarantee that everything would work out -- because it's too hard to say.
While Abdul-Jabbar spoke, the Spurs enjoyed a double-digit lead after days of enjoying Los Angeles and all its spoils. The Lakers are among many envious of the Spurs, wishing they could mimic them in some ways if not all. But if there's anything the Lakers should hope to steal, it's the Spurs' novel idea that their success stems from higher-ups who are willing to work together rather than apart. Much like a team.
LOS ANGELES -- Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs routed the Lakers 119-98 on Sunday in Los Angeles' first home game since Magic Johnson took over the franchise's basketball operations.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points for the Spurs, who have won four straight and nine of 11.
Pau Gasol added 15 points against his former team, and the Southwest Division leaders had little trouble with the Lakers, who have lost four straight and 15 of 19.
Five days after owner Jeanie Buss put Johnson in charge of basketball operations, the Lakers' dismal season still hasn't changed much, although new Lakers acquisitions Corey Brewer and Tyler Ennis got limited playing time.
Rookie Brandon Ingram scored a season-high 22 points as the Lakers fell to 19-41, ensuring their fourth consecutive non-winning season.
"All I said was that my boy is going to play for the Lakers, and I'm going to speak it into existence," LaVar Ball told ESPN on Saturday night. "I want him to be a Laker, but I wasn't saying he's only going to play for the Lakers."
Earlier Saturday, Ball told KCUB Sports Radio 1290 in Tucson that he wants Lonzo to play for Jeanie Buss' franchise so much that he would discourage other teams from picking his son in this summer's NBA draft.
"I want him to be a Laker," Ball told KCUB. "He's gonna be the first one that's homegrown, and trust me, he'll do the same thing he's doing at UCLA."
In response to a question about the Lakers' hypothetically securing the third pick in the draft, the elder Ball told the radio station that he would tell the top two squads to avoid drafting his son.
Ball hedged that statement when speaking to ESPN.
"I'm not trying to say he won't play for a different team," he said. "But I'd like him to play for the Lakers because it's home, and I'd love him to learn from Magic [Johnson]. He's the best guard ever to me, and nobody better for Lonzo to learn from than Magic Johnson."
Johnson, the Lakers' new president of basketball operations, sat in the front row at Pauley Pavilion and watched Lonzo Ball lead UCLA to a come-from-behind win over Oregon on Feb. 9.
When asked about his father's statement, Lonzo Ball said, "All I do is go out and play basketball, man."
Ball finished with 11 points, eight assists, five rebounds and two steals in his team's 77-72 win at Arizona
Sources told ESPN.com that Calderon has the Warriors at the top of his list provided he can negotiate his release from the Lakers by Wednesday, which is the last day this season that players can be released and retain playoff eligibility for their next team.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr announced after Saturday night's 112-95 victory over Brooklyn that guard Briante Weber would not be re-signed for the rest of the season after completing his second 10-day contract. Kerr also acknowledged that Golden State was poised to sign a veteran guard to take that roster spot.
ESPN first reported earlier Saturday that Calderon had launched into buyout negotiations with the Lakers, with Golden State and Houston quickly emerging as interested suitors.
Deron Williams was released by the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, cleared waivers on Saturday and quickly came to terms on a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers that, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin, will be made official Monday.
Calderon and former Warriors center Andrew Bogut
OKLAHOMA CITY -- There he sat on the aisle, halfway up Section 114, maybe 15 rows directly behind the Los Angeles Lakers bench, beside the offspring of the owner who drafted him.
From his perch next to Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss, Magic Johnson munched on popcorn Friday and surveyed his young, rebuilding squad play its first game since he ascended from a nebulous advisory position to president of basketball operations in a dramatic in-house bloodletting earlier this week that shook the franchise's foundation and the NBA landscape.
And the Lakers can feel his presence.
“Everybody has to look over their shoulders once again. It’s like coming to a new team. You try to impress the GMs and the guys in the front office with your play and off the court, the way you handle yourself. It’s just all different.”
Midway through the second quarter, Johnson joined the in-game broadcast on Spectrum SportsNet, and after preaching patience with repairing a team that has the NBA’s third-worst record and has missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, he headed toward a nearby tunnel.
But star power of his caliber doesn’t visit Oklahoma on just any day, so nearby fans zeroed in with smartphones and snapped away, screaming “Magic!” He offered his classic smile in return.
“There’s a reason he’s as successful as he is, because he has a way with people,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said before his team fell to 19-40 on the season.
Johnson oozes charisma, not to mention the legendary clout that comes with being one of the most exciting athletes in history -- winning five championships, achieving Basketball Hall of Fame status and putting together one of the most successful nonsports résumés of any player ever.
But the task ahead of him is staggering -- a yearslong venture, at least -- and his lack of front-office experience justifiably gives many pause as to whether he is fully equipped to make the Lakers great again, no matter his other credentials or what he tweets or boasts during national media tours.
Still, Johnson is the first to admit that he is up against a monumental feat, that there will need to be baby steps before giant leaps. On Thursday night, Johnson took several members of the team’s coaching staff and front office to dinner at Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, a few blocks from their downtown Oklahoma City hotel, to lay out his vision and discuss ideas.
“He’s been awesome,” Walton said. “There’s been a lot of really healthy dialogue going on.”
Walton said the Lakers would love to have Johnson around as much as possible, and so far, Johnson has attended practices and even worked with players on individual moves. But Johnson likely won’t attend many road games beyond Friday, which was a statement appearance, given the team’s massive shakeup.
He did tell the players that the door to his office is always open, and Russell said he and his teammates are expected to have one-on-one sessions with Johnson over the next few days.
But from now until their regular-season finale April 12, the Lakers’ goal is twofold, yet it should unfold without much effort: to develop their young players and to lose.
As for losing, the Lakers won’t have to try much, because they simply aren’t talented or experienced enough to even be competitive most nights, especially in the Western Conference. In other words, no "tanking" is necessary. But all those defeats will come in handy during the NBA draft lottery May 16, as the Lakers are praying they’ll be able to keep a top-three protected first-round draft pick.
The outcome of that crucial draft lottery will help shape the Lakers’ immediate future, though their next 23 games are key for their young core to gain valuable experience and chemistry and to develop what Johnson hopes, as he said on Friday's broadcast, is an identity.
During that time, it will also be key for Johnson to gain more understanding of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, as well as the ins and outs of running a modern NBA front office.
Yet his presence alone is already changing the atmosphere around the team.
“He’s Magic Johnson," Lakers guard Nick Young said. "Change is happening. It makes you stay on your toes, stay focused.”
Right now, the Lakers will appreciate every positive step forward, no matter how small, as they know full well it will take many such steps -- along with dramatic changes -- for them to emerge from the lowest era in franchise history.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.
Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.
It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.
D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers.