Blame Magic, Not LeBron, for the Lakers’ Woes

LeBron James (No. 23) of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Source Mitchell Leff/Getty

Why you should care

Because Los Angeles’ general managers deserve more heat for this unfolding debacle.

This is the latest edition of OZY’s Huddle newsletter, which brings you a smart, flavorful conversation-starter for your next game watch party. No stale takes allowed. Add The Huddle to your OZY email subscriptions here.

LeBron James’ next test of greatness is turning this Lakers season around after being set up to fail by management.

Entering the season, Lakers General Manager Magic Johnson had the foolproof idea of signing several notoriously difficult veterans to lead his young core. Then, with James injured and the youngsters as the only meaningful contributors, Johnson flopped in his attempt at acquiring Anthony Davis. The casualties, of course, were the young’uns: Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram were all offered in the trade. New Orleans said no, and today L.A. ranks 10th in the Western Conference standings.

Hall of Famer Johnson is so used to being beyond reproach that his post-trade deadline plan was … well, just be Magic. “I’m going to hug ’em and tell them that we got to come together,” he said when asked how he’d manage the embarrassed young players.

Battered egos and a sitting duck head coach don’t need a hug; they need a leader who will rein in his superstar for the good of the club. Yes, this is LeBron’s fault too. He can be moody and lacks empathy for 20-year-old teammates. He demands greatness and often sends ill-advised messages through the media. But sources inside the league believe Johnson and co-GM Rob Pelinka have hung “The King” out to dry.

James assumes he knows best. Yet, he’s a player, and when treated as such, he’ll listen. While we (often fairly) criticize James’ every move, let’s also question what the hell Johnson is doing. The takeaway for GMs? When you cause an organizational implosion, always have a backup plan.

What to Watch & Pick ’Em

Tottenham Hotspur at Arsenal (Saturday, 7:30am ET on NBCSN). Two rivals square off in the North London Derby.

  • Tottenham -0.5 (+105) 
  • Arsenal +0.5 (-125)

UFC 235 Co-Main Event, Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman (Saturday, 10pm ET on pay-per-view). Against a rising star in Usman, will Woodley retain his welterweight belt? 

  • Woodley (-175) 
  • Usman (+145)
 

Ones to Watch

Cali Harrod, Florida State softball. The Seminoles’ national title defense is off to a roaring 17-0 start, and this senior is powering it all at the plate. She boasts an eye-popping .563 batting average and .938 slugging percentage, with 24 runs scored.

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Yusei Kikuchi (No. 18) of the Seattle Mariners pitches in the first inning during a Spring Training game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Source Alex Trautwig/Getty

Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners. The next in a long line of Japanese pitching studs made his MLB (Spring Training) debut this week, striking out Cincinnati All-Star Joey Votto in a two-inning outing. A 27-year-old entering his prime, the three-time All-Star in Japan is already penciled in as Seattle’s No. 2 starter come April.

Trending Up

Crowdsourced Ownership. Inspired by the nonprofit Green Bay Packers, National Premier Soccer League side Chattanooga FC just raised $500,000 through an online, crowdsourced public offering. The first professional team to offer public equity to non-accredited investors, CFC is a for-profit operation with investors from 44 states and 10 countries. Want a piece?

Trending Down

College Hoops Sanity. Was anyone else worried that the season-long Zion Williamson lovefest would result in a predetermined Duke national title? Fret not. Yes, we hope Zion returns to full health, but a pair of Blue Devil losses since his knee sprain — plus recent volatility across the country — have turned college basketball on its head. Now, the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big East are all up for grabs. Top-ranked Gonzaga keeps blowing teams out, and sleepers like Marquette, Houston and Nevada are ready to make a run. March starts tomorrow, and nothing’s better than madness.

Read This

NBA 2K League Players Make as Much as Real-Life Ballers, by Matt Foley in OZY

With Season 2 fast approaching, NBA 2K League gamers now earn the same base salary as G League ballers. But does this league have legs as a formidable business, or is it merely an NBA advertising ploy?

Kyler Murray Is Tall Enough to Be the Best Quarterback Prospect in This NFL Draft, by Rodger Sherman in The Ringer

The biggest question in this year’s combine is about the height of the diminutive Oklahoma QB. But does his official measurement  — breaking news: He’s 5-foot-10⅛ — actually tell us anything about his potential in the league?

Former Pacers Forward Al Harrington’s Second Career: Marijuana Tycoon, by Gregg Doyel in the Indianapolis Star

In search of a second venture outside basketball, Harrington tried restaurants, hotels and venture capital. Then, with his grandmother’s help, he found something that worked: marijuana. Seven years after a $5 million investment, his company is preparing for a nine-figure valuation.

Trent Dilfer’s Journey, From Super Bowl to Tragedy to Nashville High School Coach, by Joe Rexrode in the Nashville Tennessean

A gripping story of why Dilfer — who was in negotiations with a major sports TV network and had numerous coaching offers in the NFL and college football — moved his family to Tennessee for a high school coaching gig.

Don’t Miss

Baseball players are weird, and Trevor Bauer is the weirdest. The polarizing Cleveland flamethrower was mic’d up for a recent Spring Training start, giving fans a look at his process from pregame banter to mid-inning self-talk. 

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