<
>

Magic and Bird get reacquainted as Lakers look in on Paul George, sources say

The Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams to have inquired about the availability of Indiana Pacers star forward Paul George in recent days, league sources told ESPN.

While the conversation didn't go beyond any initial expression of interest -- which is common in the NBA in advance of the trade deadline -- it's notable simply for the names involved. Yes, new Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and Pacers president Larry Bird were on the phone. College rivals at Indiana State and Michigan State, NBA rivals with the Lakers and Boston Celtics, and now rival executives with the Lakers and Pacers.

It's all part of a new reality for the Lakers and the league after Tuesday's stunning promotion of Johnson and firing of longtime Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president of basketball operations, Jim Buss.

Johnson has hit the ground running since he was empowered by Lakers president and co-owner Jeanie Buss, making a trade on Tuesday afternoon with Houston for Corey Brewer and the Rockets' first-round pick in exchange for swingman Lou Williams.

Johnson was at the Lakers offices early Wednesday morning to field trade calls, then address the team when it reported for practice at 1 p.m. Pacific time.

"Magic came down and talked to the team," Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. "He wanted to come down and first of all, say 'Hi' to everyone and let them know that he's here to support and be there for them. It was a quick meeting, but it's good to get in front of each other."

Walton said he took time afterwards to talk with his team about the front office shakeup, as well as the trade of the popular Williams, whom many of the Lakers younger players had grown close to.

"It was a strange day because I am very close with Jimmy and Mitch and I really enjoyed working with them," Walton said. "I had great talks with both of them on the telephone afterwards. They were both very supportive. Both gave the message of continue to work, keep working with the young guys. It was definitely a little sad. I think it's important to remember all the great things they did when they were here too.

"Then on the other hand, you have Earvin coming in and he's in there and he's making phone calls. It was great to work with him. It was a unique, interesting day in terms of the emotions going on. But the main thing everyone talked about was, 'We have a job to do still.'

"I remember the first time I was playing for the Lakers and they traded Jannero Pargo and I thought the world stopped. I'd never seen a teammate get traded before. As a young player, we have a lot of them, it was a strange feeling so I thought we should talk about it."

As for the possibility of more trades before Thursday's 3 p.m. ET deadline, the Lakers are far more likely to move a veteran like Jose Calderon or Nick Young than any of their young core, according to league sources.

A trade for George, who is from nearby Palmdale, California, is considered unlikely at this point. The initial conversation between Johnson and Bird never got beyond pleasantries, according to league sources.

ESPN's Chris Haynes reported last week that the Pacers are willing to part with a first-round pick to acquire help for George this season.

However, they have also been fielding calls on George in recent days in an effort to get an initial read of the market for him should they ever decide to trade him, according to league sources.