At this point, I’m ready to believe anything about Magic Johnson’s ability to screw over the Los Angeles Lakers, which according to a new report from The Athletic, was not lost with his departure from the team’s front office.
NBA reporter Sam Amick and Clippers beat writer Jovan Buha published a long feature detailing how Kawhi Leonard decided on the Clippers this summer, with the whole process hinging dually on the Paul George trade and the Clippers’ ability to keep everything under the wraps until both the trade and Kawhi’s signature were official.
That second part includes a bit about how Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ former president of basketball operations, was the man who ultimately locked the team out of the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes. According to a “person involved in the process,” it was Magic’s big mouth that cost the more famous Los Angeles team:
I truly believe that when Magic started telling the media about the meeting he had with Kawhi and Dennis, that sealed the fate of the Lakers. I think that right there was when Dennis and Kawhi decided we can’t trust the Lakers as an organization. And that was it. I think that was it for them.”
This wouldn’t even be the first time that Magic’s propensity for blabbing to the public got him in trouble. Remember, he was under investigation for tampering multiple times while working for the Lakers, and his excitement over meeting with Kawhi could easily have gotten out of hand, turning him into a gossip who just can’t wait to share the newest secret to come across his desk.
But as we found out time and time again during free agency, though, there was a lot of smoke and no fire when it came to Kawhi Leonard’s summer. Scores of NBA reporters, including our old pal Chris Broussard, got everything wrong about Kawhi’s plans, including eliminating the Clippers from contention early on in the process.
This latest report just feels like a continuation of that trend; no one really knows anything about the NBA’s most unknowable superstar, but everyone’s willing to throw darts at the wall in hopes of getting one right. Amick is generally reliable when it comes to NBA shufflings, but at this point it’s hard to trust that anyone actually knows anything about why Kawhi chose the Clippers.
So, take The Athletic’s report with a grain of salt. As likely as it might be that Magic just couldn’t stop talking, it’s more likely that this is a Lakers source trying to save face for the team after they lost a marquee free agent to their arena tenants in shocking fashion. Placing the blame on Magic—poor, sweet, oblivious Magic—is an easy way to diffuse the seeming reality that Kawhi just did not want to play on a super-team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, choosing instead to throw Paul George a life preserver and save him from the sinking S.S. Thunder.
And yet, what a world that would be, where Magic Johnson—Lakers legend, NBA royalty, Captain Obvious—cost his beloved purple-and-gold a shot at the greatest Big Three in NBA history by running his mouth.