Magic Johnson: Showtime Lakers “would probably sweep” Warriors

Tv personality Cari Champion, Magic Johnson and Pat Riley speak onstage during the American Express Teamed Up with Magic Johnson and Pat Riley on June 5, 2017 at the Conga Room in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for American Express)

The game can only take place in everyone’s imagination. But it’s a game the participants wished they could play to prove their on-court supremacy and place in NBA history.

On one side of the court stand the Showtime Lakers, which featured a dazzling point guard (Magic Johnson), a center with a distinguishable sky hook (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and a versatile forward (James Worthy). On the other side of the court stand the Golden State Warriors, which have a backcourt that seemingly never misses a shot (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson), a newly acquired star player (Kevin Durant) and a feisty defender (Draymond Green). Both teams have too many players in their supporting cast to count.

All of those ingredients have the makings of what believe would be a competitive seven-game NBA Finals series. Well, not everyone thinks that way.

“We would probably sweep them,” Johnson said on Monday at an American Express-sponsored event at the Conga Room in L.A. Live. They’re too small.”

Several in the audience laughed and cheered. Heat president and former Lakers coach Pat Riley then interjected, “Try putting somebody on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.”

That somebody would be Warriors center Zaza Pachulia.

“Zaza, I’m sorry,” Johnson said, laughing.

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Champions Basketball League launches Los Angeles Superstars

In a city consumed with the Lakers’ championship parades and star players, Los Angeles has just launched a team that will give fans a say in constructing a title-contending roster.

No, the Lakers are not hiring fans to work with their front office brass in governor Jeanie Buss, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka. Champions League Basketball, a new professional summer basketball league featuring former NBA players, launched the Los Angeles Superstars, a team that will allow fans to have an ownership role by investing in the team.

The Superstars’ brass will include former Lakers coach Byron Scott (president), former Lakers guard Gary Payton (general manager) and former Lakers guard Mitch Richmond (head coach). Meanwhile, the Superstars roster will include various former NBA players, including Corey Maggette, Carlos Boozer, Al Thornton, Mike Bibby, Marcus Banks, Josh Childress, Daniel ‘Boobie’ Gibson, Jamario Moon and Brian Cook.

Team ownership will include various perks, including attendance to practice, sitting in the owners section, attending team parties, receiving discounts on tickets, merchandise and parking, attending player meet-and-greets, participating in management conference calls and having the chance to be an assistant coach for a game. The league, which will feature more than 160 players, will have regular-season play in July and August followed by a tournament in Las Vegas in September. The Champions Basketball League posted information on fan investment opportunities on their website.

“After decades of involvement with the sport, it was obvious that fans wanted more opportunities to connect with the game,” said L.A. SuperStars CEO and Western Region EVP Mark Scoggins said in a statement. “So, we created the opportunity where fans could be owners, with the amazing perks ownership implies. This is actual ownership where fans become owners along with our founding team owners, so it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fans to be more connected than ever before to a professional sports team. Fans for the first time in L.A. history can enjoy all the special perks that only ownership can bring.”


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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Lakers hire Gunnar Peterson as director of strength and endurance training

After making several changes to various behind-the-scenes positions this offseason, the Lakers have started hiring new members to their organization.

As part of efforts from Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka to restructure their staff, the Lakers named Gunnar Peterson as the team’s Director of Strength and Endurance Training.

Peterson had served as a personal trainer in Beverly Hills for the past 28 years for various athletes in the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, USTA, boxing and various NCAA tournaments as well as entertainers. According to Peterson’s website, he has also trained reality television stars Khloe and Kim Kardashian.

“From his time in college at Duke University until now, Gunnar has pursued excellence in training and fitness,” Pelinka said in a statement. “Gunnar is a true pioneer and visionary at his craft, and will bring a new mentality to our weight room which we are all very excited about. Since Magic and I have worked with Gunnar in the past, we have a strong relationship with him, which makes working together now feel seamless.”

Peterson replaced Tim DiFrancesco, who had served as the Lakers’ strength and conditioning coach for the past 6 1/2 seasons before resigning earlier this month. The Lakers also had parted ways with assistant strength and conditioning coach Sean Light.

The Lakers said that Peterson “will design and implement a strength and conditioning program for the team with the goal of keeping the players performing at elite levels throughout the NBA season.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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Luke Walton said Lakers will ask UCLA about LaVar Ball

Lonzo Ball has sparked attention for his play. He has garnered rave reviews about his passing, scoring and leadership qualities during his lone season at UCLA.

LaVar Ball has sparked attention for his self-promotion. He has launched the Big Baller Brand shoes that cost $495 a pair, has claimed he can beat Michael Jordan one-on-one and has gushed about his son’s greatness.

LaVar Ball also has maintained it’s a foregone conclusion his son will wear a purple and gold uniform. Yet, Lakers coach Luke Walton said the team will conduct more research before making its final decision for the NBA Draft on June 22. That includes the Lakers asking UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar Ball.

“I wouldn’t personally. But yes, somebody in our organization will,” Walton said Friday on “The Dan Patrick Show. “Absolutely.”

Walton chalked up those inquiries as part of the Lakers’ due diligence the Lakers on every prospect. So while Walton has scoured clips the scouting department has put together on each candidate for the Lakers’ No. 2 and No. 28 picks, Walton said the Lakers plan to contact every school about how each player treated people behind the scenes and how they took care of their body in the trainer’s room.

Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have generally downplayed whether LaVar Ball’s outspokenness could deter them from selecting Lonzo Ball. Instead, they have stressed they will evaluate Lonzo Ball more on his past performances, pre-draft workouts and interviews. But does LaVar Ball worry Walton?

“Not yet. When we get closer to the draft, I;m sure we’ll get a packet of information on every player we’re interested in,” Walton said. “We’ll sit down and discuss it all. But right now, I’m not concerned at all. I’m mostly concerned with which player can help us win more than 26 games the most.”

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Magic Johnson on what the Lakers do with the No. 2 pick

Mark Medina, the Lakers beat writer for Southern California News Group, breaks down the NBA Draft Lottery where the Lakers landed the #2 overall pick. Does this mean the team goes with Lonzo Ball? You’ll hear from Lakers upper management, including Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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Rudy Tomjanovich no longer with the Lakers

The Lakers’ wave of sea changes in their basketball operations department included Rudy Tomjanovich, who coached the Lakers 43 games into the 2004-05 season before abruptly resigning and serving as a consultant for the Lakers in various capacities in subsequent years.

A Lakers spokesperson attributed Tomjanovich’s departure to “part of the reorganization of basketball operations,” which took place shortly after the 2016-17 season ended in mid-April. Last season, Tomjanovich served as a consultant and scout for the Lakers’ basketball analytics department. Tomjanovich’s son, Trey, also is not part of the staff after serving as a consultant and helping with statistical analysis in the basketball analytics department.

The Lakers had signed Tomjanovich to a five-year, $30 million contract to replace Phil Jackson for the 2004-05 season after guiding the Houston Rockets to two NBA championships (1994, 1995) during his 12-year tenure (1991-2003). But Tomjanovich resigned 43 games into the 2004-05 season with a 24-19 record, citing physical and emotional difficulties. The Lakers still retained Tomjanovich in a consulting capacity.

Tomjanovich had been previously linked to a dark part of the Lakers’ history. Tomjanovich, who played with the Rockets from 1971 to 1981, suffered a vicious punch from former Lakers forward Kermit Washington during an on-court scuffle at the Forum. Tomjanovich suffered compound facial fractures and retired in 1981.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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Spectrum SportsNet’s Chris McGee optimistic about Lakers’ chances in NBA draft lottery

The Lakers have not been the most exciting team to watch over the past few seasons, with reasons to tune in few and far between for even the most die-hard Laker fan. One man who has seen every minute of the Lakers and their precipitous drop from the top of the NBA is Spectrum SportsNet’s Chris McGee.

McGee joins Mark Medina, the Lakers beat writer of the Southern California News Group on the “We Want Tacos” Lakers podcast to express his optimism surrounding the Lakers’ chances in keeping their top-three protected pick in the NBA draft lottery on May 16. McGee also has insight on hosting shows on draft lottery night and insight on Lakers head coach Luke Walton.


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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Lakers scout Chaz Osborne no longer with team

Lakers scout Chaz Osborne no longer works with the team, with what a Lakers spokesperson said is “part of the reorganization of basketball operations.” The Lakers parted ways with Osborne earlier last month shortly after the 2016-17 season ended. Osborne was known to be close with former Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, who was fired on February by his sister, Lakers governor Jeanie Buss.

After replacing her brother with Magic Johnson as the president of basketball operations, Jeanie Buss then hired Rob Pelinka as in place of longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak. Since their hiring, Johnson and Pelinka have said they would evaluate everyone working with the Lakers franchise.

Since then, former assistant general manager Glenn Carraro and strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco resigned from their respective positions. Meanwhile, the Lakers parted ways with numerous people, including former player director of player development Rondre Jackson, coordinator of basketball operations Tania Jolly and assistant strength and conditioning coach Sean Light.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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NBA2K trailer spoofs Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant beef

The tension between Kobe Bryant and Shauqille O’Neal once stemmed over personality differences, work habits and control over the Lakers franchise. Though both sides say they have reconciled those issues, O’Neal and Bryant both brought a comedic twist between a duo that dominated on the court and fought off of it.

In a trailer for the NBA 2K18 Legend Edition that will be released on Sept. 19,, O’Neal stands behind a lectern and thanks various unnamed coaches and teammates for helping him get on the cover of the popular video game. O’Neal then expressed gratitude to Bryant for reasons that had nothing to do with his skills.

“He was an NBA 2K Legend cover athlete first,” O’Neal said of Bryant. “He’s so awesome and handsome and has really nice natural teeth.”

O’Neal then expresses confusion as he read the telemprompter. He then realized Bryant wrote those words for him. O’Neal vowed that “payback is going to be fun,” bringing new life to a beef they insist no longer exists.


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” Lakers podcast on iTunes.

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Lakers’ Luol Deng had surgery to treat right pectoral muscle

Lakers forward Luol Deng is listed as questionable to play in Thursday’s game against Portland. ( Photo by Stephen Carr / LA Daily News / SCNG )

Lakers veteran forward Luol Deng had surgery on Wednesday morning to repair a right pectoral muscle. The Lakers said they expect Deng to make a full recovery once training camp starts in late September.

The injury bothered Deng at times during the 2016-17 season where he posted career-lows in points (7.6) and shooting percentage (38.7) in his 12th NBA season. Though the Lakers sounded confident about Deng’s future health, his future as a player remains uncertain. The Lakers may try to trade Deng, who has three years left worth $54 million left on his contract. But the size of that contract also presents various challenges in unloading it.

Shortly before the season ended, Deng said he planned to spend most of his offseason training. He also said he talked with Lakers coach Luke Walton more about playing at the power forward position, something Deng said also matched Walton’s view. It remains unclear if that will happen considering the Lakers have frontcourt players in Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. Forward Thomas Robinson will also be an unrestricted free agent, while forward Tarik Black has a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers for next season worth $6.65 million.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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