After the abrupt April 9th resignation from his position as President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson made his first public interview on ESPN’s First Take Monday morning. Johnson held no punches during the interview, claiming that he was stabbed in the back by general manager Rob Pelinka during their time together in the Lakers front office. While I would love to bask in the dysfunction that is the Los Angles Lakers, my interest was piqued more by some totally unprompted comments by Magic about the New Orleans Pelicans.
ESPN’s Steven A. Smith asked Johnson whether the positive direction of the Clippers under Steve Balmer was hurting the Lakers brand, especially during a period where they’re swimming in significant turmoil. Johnson began by praising Balmer and he labeled the Clippers head coach Doc Rivers as “special.” After giving props to Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich and Mike Budenholzer, Johnson paused and brought up Zion Williamson.
“I’ll tell you what, Zion got lucky because Alvin Gentry can coach. He shouldn’t think about all this craziness people are talking about, you go to New Orleans and you’ve got a great coach that’s gonna help him get better because he needs to work on some skills that he doesn’t have right now and Alvin will do that for him.”
Johnson wasn’t done admiring the New Orleans Pelicans either as the Hall of Famer went on to praise the hires of David Griffin (Executive Vice President) and Trajan Langdon (General Manager) as “great two hires.”
Unfortunately, all of Magic’s comments during his don’t blame Magic tour were not exclusively positive. Johnson said he did not regret how he handled the Anthony Davis trade talks and blamed the messiness of that negotiation on former general manager Dell Demps.
“I told Dell Demps let’s do it in private, what we offer lets keep between us. Well Dell didn’t do that, so that’s how it got out.”
Now whether Magic Johnson is telling the truth about Dell Demps role in the handling of the negotiations is anybody’s guess. Seemingly everything the Lakers do always gets leaked out to the media, and it is particularly ironic for Magic to be claiming zero responsibility in the leaks at the same time as he was spilling the Lakers dirty laundry on national tv. Did Dell Demps also leak that the Lakers wanted to fire Luke Walton? Was Demps involved in the messy Tyronn Lue negotiations to replace Walton that ultimately fell apart due to the upside down power dynamics within the Lakers front office?
While we shouldn’t necessarily believe Magic’s comment about Demps, it was nice to hear some sane talk about Zion Williamson coming to New Orleans after a week of ridiculous unprompted speculation that he might be better off going back to Duke for his sophomore season. Johnson admitted that the Pels have a great environment for Zion, though this reassurance ultimately wasn’t needed as the Pelicans were going to pick him regardless.
However, keep this in the back of your minds: you have to wonder if Anthony Davis is listening. Maybe Johnson’s public airing of the true dysfunction in Laker land could have some bearing on AD’s decision to stay in New Orleans. With how things have gone Gayle Benson’s way in regards to the Pelicans, Davis’ scheduled meeting with the Pelicans brass this week might be the team’s next home run.
Only time will tell, but if even Laker legends are admitting that Pelicans have a good situation it makes Anthony Davis’ trade request look even more foolhardy.