NBA

Los Angeles Lakers have two summers to reshape roster, says Magic Johnson

Jay Asser 27/06/2018
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Magic Johnson is trying to turn the Lakers into a contender again.

The Los Angeles Lakers appear to be facing a pivotal summer, but Magic Johnson believes the team’s window for landing a star player extends to next year.

The Lakers team president hedged on the Lakers’ hopes this summer while also putting pressure on himself in a press conference on Tuesday, when he said the franchise will only have failed in their rebuilding effort if they miss out on a big-name free agent by the end of the 2019 offseason.

“Next summer, if nobody comes and I’m still sitting here like this, then it’s a failure. But if you judge us on one summer, that’s ridiculous. Then a lot of dudes shouldn’t be in their roles. Because if we’re banking on one summer for the Lakers, we’re in trouble,” Johnson said.

“Like I told you before I took the job and when I took the job, it’s going to be a two-summer thing for the Lakers,” he added. “This summer and next summer. That’s it. If I can’t deliver I’m going to step down myself. She [team controlling owner Jeanie Buss] won’t have to fire me, I’ll step away from it, because [then] I can’t do this job.”

Johnson’s comments may indicate multiple things, with the most obvious being the Lakers are trying to soften the blow if they fail to add either LeBron James, Paul George or Kawhi Leonard this summer.

George has been linked to the Lakers for more than a year now, but there has been buzz that he’s considering spending at least one more year in Oklahoma City.

Leonard has reportedly made it clear to the San Antonio Spurs that he wants a trade to the Lakers, but he technically won’t have control over his situation until he hits free agency next summer.

And if neither George or Leonard head to Los Angeles, that may deter James from relocating out west. James alone wouldn’t turn the Lakers into a championship contender, so it’s possible he may also stay in Cleveland for another season before surveying the landscape in a year’s time.

However, Johnson’s bold statement that he will step down if he can’t return the Lakers to prominence could also mean he’s supremely confident that the team will get something done with one of the three aforementioned stars.

Either way, the next few weeks will be extremely telling.

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NBA

Houston Rockets star James Harden wins first career NBA MVP award

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James Harden has been named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player – beating the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The Houston Rockets guard picked up the league’s most prestigious prize for the first time, a year after finishing runner-up to Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.

His impressive 2017-18 season saw him notch up an average of 30.4 points per game as he helped guide the Rockets to a franchise record of 65 wins.

Accepting the accolade at the NBA Awards ceremony in California with his mother by his side, Harden said: “Huge shout out to the NBA. NBA and all the legends that paved the way for me to be able to play this game like I do and like I love.

“Sixth Man of the Year to MVP. Shout out to all the youngers that got a dream. Go chase that dream.”

Former winners of the award include Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant – as well as four-time victor James.

The Cleveland Cavaliers player missed out on a fifth MVP trophy following a season in which he played all 82 games for the first time in his career, averaging 27.5 points and career-highs of 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds.

Other winners at the awards included Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, who was named Rookie of the Year, and Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo, who won the Most Improved Player honour.

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NBA

NBA Awards Show to hand out individual honours as James Harden and others in contention

Jay Asser 25/06/2018
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James Harden with Drake at the 2017 awards show.

The 2017-18 NBA season will finally be wrapped up on Monday night with the league’s second annual awards show.

You may have forgotten or completely moved on from this past season, but the individual awards still have to be handed out, including the MVP.

It doesn’t really make sense to wait more than two months after the end of the regular season to name the award winners, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Ahead of tonight’s show – which will be hosted by comedian and actor Anthony Anderson, while including performances by Travis Scott and others – let’s take a look at the nominees and who’s likely to walk away with the hardware in each of the six main categories.

Keep in mind these awards were voted on by the media before the playoffs, so the postseason has no impact on these honours, which are strictly for the regular season.

MVP

Finalists: James Harden (Houston Rockets), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

There’s hardly any suspense over the most important award, with Harden the clear frontrunner after a mesmerising campaign in which he led the league in scoring (30.4) as the best player on the best regular-season team.

After finishing as the runner-up in 2015 to Stephen Curry and last year to Russell Westbrook, it’s finally time for Harden to get his due.

Defensive Player of the Year

Finalists: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

It’s a trio of big men up for the award, which is a bit of a departure from previous years when versatile, perimeter-oriented defenders Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard were the winners.

Davis and Embiid are elite shot-blockers in their own right, but Gobert’s impact on Utah’s defence can’t be ignored as the Jazz allowed just 97.5 points per 100 possessions after his return from a knee injury midway through the season.

Rookie of the Year

Finalists: Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)

In a loaded rookie class, Mitchell and Tatum were good enough to earn the award in most other years.

Simmons may not be a conventional ‘rookie’ because he sat out all of last season with an injury, but the 76ers phenom still qualifies and as such, is deserving of the award for leading a team that made a 22-win improvement.

Sixth Man of the Year

Finalists: Lou Williams (Los Angeles Clippers), Fred VanVleet (Toronto Raptors), Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets)

You can make a case Williams should have made the Western Conference All-Star team, so his case for Sixth Man is pretty airtight.

No bench player has ever finished with the scoring and assists average Williams managed in his career year as he put up 22.6 points and 5.3 helpers.

Most Improved Player

Finalists: Clint Capela (Houston Rockets), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets)

It’s hard to go from average to good in the NBA, but it’s even harder to make that next leap and go from good to great. And that’s exactly what Oladipo did this season by turning into a bona fide All-Star.

In his first year with Indiana, the guard raised his scoring average from 15.9 points to 23.1, while also having career highs in rebounds (5.2), assists (4.3), steals (2.4), field goal percentage (47.7) and 3-point percentage (37.1).

Coach of the Year

Finalists: Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors), Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics), Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz)

It’s going to be even more awkward for the Raptors if Casey claims the award, considering they fired him after a 59-win season in which they topped the Eastern Conference.

But as well as the Raptors did, Boston finished with just four fewer wins despite Brad Stevens having to deal with the loss of two All-Stars and a young roster. The playoffs just cemented his case, even if they had no impact on the voting.

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