PHILADELPHIA – Magic Johnson, president of the Los Angeles Lakers, said the New Orleans Pelicans had shown bad faith in negotiations with his team over a deal with superstar Anthony Davis. However, he said that he did not dwell on the failure of commercial deadlines and wanted his players to focus more.
"We knew that in the end, it was happening what happened," said Johnson before the 140-123 defeat of the Lakers against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. "And we knew it when we started, in terms of what happened … But hey, that's what it is."
Johnson was asked if the New Orleans front office – headed by Executive Director Dell Demps and Executive Vice President Mickey Loomis – had acted in good faith from the moment Davis's request for an exchange became public until the deadline passed without agreement.
Both franchisees have struggled for championships over the decades. With a thrilling finish in the night of Thursday to Thursday, their next battle will be played this summer, while the two teams will try to reach the coveted star of the Pelicans.
Johnson categorically replied, "No. But he rebuffed the idea that the public nature of the negotiations was unfair to L.A.'s younger core, as players heard their name mentioned as a currency of exchange almost daily.
"Stop thinking that these guys are babies because that's how you treat them," Johnson said. "They are professionals, all of them, and this is how this league works, they know it, I know it – that's how it happens."
"So we have to go forward, and we are moving forward, they have been outstanding against Boston, give them credit, and we want to play well today and keep going. You have a good side of the business we are paid to be professional basketball players, and there are things like this. "
Johnson also rejected the assertion that the negotiations were different from how the rest of the league conducts its business.
"All transactions are … many are made in public," he said. "We did not participate in public, but that's part of that, that's what's going on, man, we have big boys here, and they're bouncing in. They're fine." "
When asked if the way things were going with New Orleans could have a hangover effect on his franchise this season, Johnson remained steadfast in his vision of bringing the Lakers back to champion form.
"It will not change our plans this summer," Johnson said. "It's a super [free-agency] class, and we just want to get one of them. "
L.A. accepted two relatively minor moves before the deadline: send rookie Svi Mykhailiuk to the Detroit Pistons for Reggie Bullock and exchange Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley at the Los Angeles Clippers for Mike Muscala.
"We were on the phone from the beginning," said Johnson, admitting that the Lakers wanted to add the shoot to their lineup for some time. "No one would move until last week, and we've been shut up in Reggie for a long time, we had very good discussions with Detroit, and finally it became an agreement, Mike was really at the last second when we did not know that Philly was going to make this move [acquiring Tobias Harris from the Clippers]. When they made that decision, we looked up and said, "Man, a 4-5 stretch could really help us. And we are satisfied with the trade. "
Johnson joined the team on Sunday in Philadelphia after attending a meeting with the US championship team between 1978 and 1979 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his title Saturday in East Lansing, Michigan. Johnson took advantage of this trip to reconnect with his team and insist again on the directive until April: qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
"I talked to guys individually," Johnson said. "Because it's important to have sidebars with them, make sure we're all going in the same direction, and we are, and we have a goal in front of us to try to make the playoffs." playoffs, and that's what it's all about. "
The reactions to Johnson's message in the Lakers locker room were mixed.
"I think he's leading the team, and he felt the pulse of the team throughout the transaction, or whatever the case," said LeBron James. "But having him around every time that's it can always be good for the ball club."
"I do not know," said Rajon Rondo when asked for Johnson's address. "Everyone is different, everyone gets different information, it did not translate into a win, I do not know."
Kyle Kuzma said it was the first time that he had news of the Lakers leadership since the weeks leading up to the trade deadline or since its expiration.
"We just got rid of it," Kuzma said. "I mean, every time Magic Johnson, one of the biggest players in the game, comes to talk to you, you'll always be all eyes and ears." Optimistic. That's exactly what Magic is It's a guy who enters the room, [it] sort of electrifies. It's just who he is. You listen to what he says. "
JaVale McGee from the Lakers Center was asked how Johnson's presence made him feel.
"I felt good," McGee said. "How am I supposed to answer that? How did I feel? Tingly inside? I do not know."
The transactions of the Sixers for Harris, Boban Marjanovic, James Ennis III, Mike Scott and Jonathan Simmons are examples of the "overlay" of the Eastern Conference has become, according to Johnson. While he was openly thinking about how the East group could play, Johnson said he was "excited" to think his team would play in the playoffs.
"I do not want them to focus on these other things," he said. "What happened, whose name was mentioned, all that? It's over.This was Thursday.It is now.All must buckle and we have to go from the front. "
Because of the high stakes of the NBA, not to mention playing for the Lakers, an organization that remains at the championship standard, Johnson said the trade negotiations would only continue to surround his team.
"Listen, we are paid to do a job," he said. "And we're all professionals, I've been in this league for 40 years, a lot of players were traded on Thursdays and Wednesdays Guess what's going to happen next year, a lot of players are going to be traded in. A lot of the players are going to stay at home and I've talked to our guys, they're in a good place.It's all that matters.We are heading, hopefully, to get into the playoffs. " so, it's a part – a part of the NFL, part of the NHL, part of the Major League Baseball, part of the NBA. "
Johnson was also asked about the sophomore star of the Sixers, Ben Simmons, who, as a 6-foot-10 points keeper, made comparisons with the 6-foot-9 Johnson player, who won five points as leader of the Lakers.
"[Simmons] I've contacted, not directly with me, but with the Lakers to find out if we can meet this summer, "Johnson said. I said, "Hey, you have to settle that with the league," and if everyone – the Sixers sign, we sign, the league approves – well, I'll do it. But if everyone does not disconnect, we can not get together.
"But I love his game. I love his vision. I love it too, he's very, in terms of IQ for basketball, very high."
After the victory over the Lakers, Simmons said he did not want to talk to Johnson "for the moment," but he explained why this conversation could be beneficial.
"He's been in a lot of situations where he had to play on the 5th, and he's won a championship that way, and just a member of the Hall of Famer, one of those guys who's in the position I'm in … I think it can help, "Simmons said.
Asked about Johnson's comments on Simmons, a spokesman for the Sixers team declined to comment on this event with ESPN.
Tim Bontemps from ESPN contributed to this story.