NBA News & Notes: Magic Johnson gets Lakers front office job, Ibaka traded to Raptors

February 18, 2017

The NBA's two largest markets had its glamour teams make headlines this week, but while one of those franchises (the Lakers) seems to be headed in the right direction, the other (the Knicks) took a humiliating turn for the worse.  For more on these stories and other top news, read below:

Magic Johnson joins Laker front office

It's about time.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has been struggling with a front office power structure that has her underqualified brother running basketball operations, but this past week she finally took matters into her own hands, as she officially made Laker legend Magic Johnson part of the payroll again, giving him the role as an advisor to the team.

Under Jim Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers have stumbled through three of their worst seasons in franchise history.  If things continue at their current pace, this year would be a fourth consecutive season of horrific losses and sub-.500 basketball.

Buss has proven to be a massive hindrance in his role, as he had very little basketball background -- or success in any field, for that matter -- prior to his father gifting him a job in the front office.

Under Buss, there have been a series of atrocious coaching hires -- Mike Brown, Mike D'Antoni -- and  some blockbuster trade efforts that have backfired.

Although Buss can take credit for drafting well the last few seasons, even in this area there have been some costly misses.  Namely, choosing slow-footed D'Angelo Russell over rising star Kristaps Porzingis.

Kupchak, an otherwise competent GM, seemingly has become somewhat of a yes-man to Buss.  He's front and center for the camera when things go bad, but when something positive emerges, he seemingly hangs in the shadows, perhaps to allow Buss to take the credit.

The dynamic with these two introverted personalities has led to an even greater failing in recent years -- the inability to acquire elite free agents.

For the past few offseasons, the Lakers have been blessed with cap space only to see numerous free agents turn them down.  Players have come away from meetings underwhelmed by the Lakers presentation, as Kupchak and Buss seemingly have no charisma and no clue on the art of closing a deal.

Dwight Howard took less money just to leave the team, while LaMarcus Aldridge was almost offended by the LA front office emphasizing everything but the on-the-court product in their sales pitch.  At other times, they were just plain sloppy, acting too slowly to sign Isaiah Thomas at a bargain price when he was highly interested in playing for the team.

As a seemingly desperate measure to prove they could at least sign someone, the Lakers then grossly overpaid this offseason for two average role players in Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov.

Buss' absurd two-year windfall contract to a badly aging Kobe Bryant did nothing to help matters, as it signaled to the NBA that this franchise cared more about farewell tours than winning.  As for the Laker apologists' claims that the team's loyalty to Kobe would bring in other free agents impressed by such treatment toward the players, that pipe dream quickly fizzled this past offseason.

Enter Magic Johnson.

Johnson was probably the smartest basketball player in history, as the skilled and unselfish 6-9 point guard was able to see plays develop in his mind two steps ahead of everyone else.  That intelligence has followed him into retirement, as he is perhaps the most successful athlete turned businessman in American sports.

Magic knows the game, knows winning, and has extremely high standards.

He also is emotionally invested in the team and is a Laker for life.  That means he will be ultra-committed to his new role, but also might be a bit too emotionally impulsive when making personnel decisions.

In either case, the addition of Magic Johnson constitutes a massive upgrade over the current "brain" trust.   At the very least, Johnson brings instant credibility to any free agent meeting -- a factor glaringly absent the past three offseasons.  More importantly, he will help the team forge an identity on the court, something that has been missing under Buss.

Critics have claimed that Magic won't have a clue on how to deal with the salary cap or other technical aspects of the front office.  Such talk smacks of stereotyping Magic as just another dumb jock, or perhaps is simply racist.

Frankly, Magic is ideally suited to the business aspect of the job, as he is one of the most successful businessmen in Los Angeles.

This was a smart move by Jeanie Buss to get the franchise turned back in the right direction.

Cavs' Kevin Love has knee surgery, out six weeks

In a major blow to the Cavaliers frontcourt, forward Kevin Love underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee.  Love will now undergo a period of rest and rehabilitation and his return to play is estimated at approximately six weeks.

'Melo to replace injured Kevin Love at 2017 All-Star Game

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony has been named by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to replace injured Eastern Conference All-Star reserve Kevin Love in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans on Sunday.

This marks the 10th NBA All-Star selection for Anthony, who is averaging 23.2 points (tied for 16th in the NBA), 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 55 games this season. The 32-year-old is set to play in the All-Star Game for the eighth consecutive year. Anthony (23,775 career points) recently passed Charles Barkley for 25th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

NBA Commissioner and Michael Jordan help out on Knicks-Oakley dispute

There is a reason why the Knicks have floundered under owner James Dolan -- the man simply does not have a clue how to run a basketball team.

After popular ex-Knick Charles Oakley attended a recent game and started verbally criticizing Dolan from a few seats away, the apparently thin-skinned owner ordered his security goons to escort Oakley out of the arena.  Oakley unjustly ended up getting arrested after pushing security staff.

The incident was an absolute fiasco for the franchise, and gave the league a black eye.  As such, no less than NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA legend Michael Jordan intervened to try to resolve the dispute.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement regarding the situation involving Charles Oakley and Madison Square Garden:

“It is beyond disheartening to see situations involving members of the NBA family like the one that occurred at Madison Square Garden this past week.  In an effort to find a path forward, New York Knicks owner Jim Dolan, Charles Oakley, and I met today at the league office, along with Michael Jordan, who participated by phone.
Both Mr. Oakley and Mr. Dolan were apologetic about the incident and subsequent comments, and their negative impact on the Knicks organization and the NBA.  Mr. Dolan expressed his hope that Mr. Oakley would return to MSG as his guest in the near future.
I appreciate the efforts of Mr. Dolan, Mr. Oakley, and Mr. Jordan to work towards a resolution of this matter.”
Orlando deals Serge Ibaka to Toronto for Terrence Ross and first round pick

The Orlando Magic have acquired guard-forward Terrence Ross and a 2017 first round draft pick from Toronto in exchange for forward Serge Ibaka.

The Magic had a glut of bigs in their frontcourt, and the streaky and athletic Ross could upgrade things on the perimeter.

“In welcoming Terrence (Ross) to the Magic family, we have added an athletic, shot-making wing to our developing, young core, while also making our roster more versatile,” said Hennigan. “We thank Serge (Ibaka) for his contributions and professionalism, and certainly wish him well.”

But the real winners in this deal appear to be the Raptors, who now have a shotblocking big -- a missing element after Bismack Biyombo signed with Orlando this offseason -- to pair with their high-scoring backcourt.  The fact that Ibaka can knock down jump shots and excel on pick-and-pop plays makes the Raptors offense more effective as well.

The loss of Ross can be offset somewhat by giving more minutes to athletic former UCLA Bruin Norman Powell.

Ross (6’7”, 206) has played in 54 games this season with Toronto, averaging 10.4 ppg. and 2.6 rpg. in 22.3 minpg., while shooting .375 (96-256) from three-point range and .820 (41-50) from the free throw line. He has scored in double figures 27 times, including a season-high 25 points on Dec. 12 vs. Milwaukee.

Originally selected in the first round (eighth overall) of the 2012 NBA Draft by Toronto, Ross has appeared in 363 career NBA games (132 starts), all with the Raptors, averaging 9.5 ppg. and 2.6 rpg. in 23.3 minpg., while shooting .376 (598-1,589) from three-point range.  Ross poured in a career-high 51 points on Jan. 25, 2014 vs. L.A. Clippers. He won the 2013 Slam Dunk contest during NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston.

Ibaka (6’10”, 235, 9/18/89) has played and started in 56 games this season with Orlando, averaging 15.1 ppg., 6.8 rpg., 1.1 apg. and a team-high 1.61 blkpg. in 30.5 minpg., while shooting .488 (343-703) from the floor, .388 (83-214) from three-point range and .846 (77-91) from the free throw line.

Blake Griffin and LeBron James named NBA Players of the Week

The  Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Feb. 6 through Sunday, Feb. 12.

Griffin led the Clippers to a 2-1 week behind averages of 26.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists (tied for fourth in the West).  In just his sixth game since returning from knee surgery, Griffin posted a triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and a career-high-tying 11 assists in a 118-109 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Feb. 6.

Griffin shot 49.2 percent from the field for the week, including 4-of-8 from three-point range, and totaled 24 assists and only three turnovers.

James averaged 25.5 points, 11.3 assists (second in the East and the NBA) and 5.8 rebounds for the week as the Cavaliers went 3-1.  In a 140-135 overtime victory against the Washington Wizards on Feb. 6, James set a career high with 17 assists, scored 32 points and made a turnaround, fadeaway three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left to force overtime.

James, who scored at least 25 points in three of four games and posted two double-doubles, shot 58.0 percent from the field and 60.0 percent from three-point range.

Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Golden State’s Kevin Durant, Houston’s James Harden, Miami’s Goran Dragic and James Johnson, Philadelphia’s Dario Saric, Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Washington’s Bradley Beal.

Cavs trade Birdman to Charlotte

The Cleveland Cavaliers have traded center Chris Andersen and cash considerations to Charlotte for a protected second round pick. Andersen, who signed as a free agent on July 21, appeared in just 12 games this season with averages of 2.3 points and 2.6 rebounds.

Nuggets acquire Mason Plumlee in trade with Portland

The Denver Nuggets have acquired center Mason Plumlee, a 2018 second round draft pick and cash consideration from Portland in exchange for center Jusuf Nurkić and a 2017 protected first round pick via Memphis.

Plumlee, 6-11, 245, appeared in 54 games for Portland this season, averaging 11.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 28.1 minutes per game. Over four seasons, Plumlee has appeared in 288 career games (203 starts) for Brooklyn and Portland, averaging 9.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 23.0 minutes per game.

The 26-year-old played a key role in Portland’s playoff run last season, starting all 11 games and averaging 7.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 27.8 minutes per game. The Duke University product also won a Gold Medal with Team USA alongside Nuggets Forward Kenneth Faried at the FIBA World Cup in 2014. The Indiana native was drafted by Brooklyn with the 22nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Nurkić, 7-0, 280, appeared in 139 games (59 starts) in three seasons with Denver, averaging 7.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.06 blocks in 17.7 minutes per game. He was drafted with the 16th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and was acquired by Denver along with Gary Harris in a draft night trade with the Chicago Bulls.

NBA D-League renamed the Gatorade League

Beginning with the 2017-18 season, the NBA Development League (NBA D-League) will be renamed the NBA Gatorade League (NBA G-League) as part of a multiyear expanded partnership announced today by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Gatorade.  This marks the first time a U.S. professional sports league has named an entitlement partner.

As part of the partnership, the NBA and Gatorade unveiled a new NBA G-League logo that will be featured across all game balls, team jerseys, oncourt signage, and league digital assets.  Additionally, Gatorade will incubate its latest product and equipment innovations into NBA G-League locker rooms, and teams will have the opportunity to collaborate with Gatorade to help players maximize their athletic potential and oncourt performance.

Through the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), the sports fuel company will collaborate with the NBA G-League on programs to enhance player sports performance and recovery.  Since 1985, GSSI has helped athletes optimize their sports performance and well-being through research, education, innovation and providing high-caliber sports nutrition science services.  GSSI scientists will partner with the NBA G-League on player nutrition and training programs, incorporating the newest technology and innovations in Gatorade testing, product and equipment.

Timberwolves' LaVine has ACL surgery

The Minnesota Timberwolves announced that guard Zach LaVine underwent successful surgery to reconstruct a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in his left knee. The surgery was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttrache of Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in collaboration with Timberwolves Team Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Diane Dahm of Mayo Clinic.

The injury occurred during the Timberwolves vs. Detroit Pistons game on Friday, February 3.

In 47 games this season, LaVine averaged 18.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 37.2 minutes per game. In his third NBA season, LaVine holds career averages of 13.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 206 games.

Minnesota recently signed guard Lance Stephenson to a 10-day contract to fill LaVine's spot. Stephenson, 26, played in six games for the New Orleans Pelicans this season, averaging 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists before being waived on November 7.

Heat on fire

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was reluctant to discuss his team’s recent win streak. Their performance, however, speaks for itself.

With 13 consecutive victories, the Heat had the longest winning streak in league history by a team under .500 throughout the run.

During the streak, which is tied for the third longest in franchise history, Miami (23-30) has averaged 109.4 points per game and shot 49.4 percent from the field. Guards Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters have combined to average 43.5 points and 11.6 assists.

On defense, the Heat is holding opponents to 29.9 percent shooting from three-point range over the last 12 games. For perspective, the top mark in this category for the season is 31.9 percent by the Warriors.

Jamal Murray named Rising Stars MVP

Denver Nuggets rookie Jamal Murray was named MVP of the 2017 Rising Stars Challenge after posting a game-high 36 points (9-14 3FG) and a game-high 11 assists in a 150-139 Team World victory.

Murray, 19, is the first Nugget to win MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge since teammate Kenneth Faried was named MVP in 2013. He is the third Nugget in team history to be named MVP of the game (Carmelo Anthony, 2005).

The Kitchener, Canada native connected on 9-of-14 (.642) threes in the game, the second most made three-pointers in the history of the Rising Stars Challenge (Daniel Gibson of the Cavaliers made a record 11 three-pointers for the Sophomore Team in 2008). Murray’s 11 assists were the most by any player in the Rising Stars Challenge since John Wall handed out 22 assists in 2011.

The University of Kentucky product has appeared in 56 games (three starts) for Denver this season, averaging 8.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 19.9 minutes per game. He has made the second-most threes of any rookie this season (72) and was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for October/November after averaging 10.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the month.

Murray’s teammate Nikola Jokić added a near triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for Team World.

Talkin' Smack

Donnie Nelson, Mavericks president/general manager: “[Dallas guard] Yogi [Ferrell] is the patron saint of every kid who doesn’t get his name called on draft night. He’s also proof positive that the D-League is the fastest, most effective way to get into an NBA locker room.”

Michael Malone, Nuggets coach: “[Denver center Nikola Jokic] is a guy I’d pay to see, not because he’s dunking on anybody or blowing by anybody. It’s because of his skill, his flair, his joy.”

Howard Beck, Bleacher Report: “Spend enough time around the Bucks, and what emerges [regarding rookie forward Thon Maker] is a portrait of a player who seems almost too good to be true: thoughtful, mature, intelligent, engaging, studious, diligent, focused, intensely driven and, by the way, consistently, unfailingly nice.”

Quin Snyder, Jazz coach: “We’ve stopped putting a cap on how good [Utah All-Star forward Gordon Hayward] can become. His work ethic and athletic ability will take him far as he wants to go.”

Suns' Len suspended

Phoenix Suns center Alex Len has been suspended one game without pay for leaving the bench area and entering the playing court during an altercation, it was announced by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

In addition, Suns guard Tyler Ulis and forward Marquese Chriss and Memphis Grizzlies guard Troy Daniels have each been fined $15,000 for their roles in the altercation, which took place with 1:10 remaining in the fourth quarter of Memphis’ 110-91 win over Phoenix at FedEx Forum on Feb. 8.

The Numbers

Triple-Doubles: NBA players have combined for 65 triple-doubles in 2016-17, which is already tied for the third-highest total in a season. The league record is 78, set in the 1988-89 season. Next on the list is last season’s total of 75 triple-doubles.

Andre Drummond, Pistons: With a 24-point, 17-rebound game against the Lakers on Wednesday, Drummond recorded his 214th double-double since entering the league in the 2012-13 season – the most in the NBA during that time. Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins is second with 213 double-doubles since the start of the 2012-13 season.

Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks: He has scored at least 20 points in back-to-back games for the first time this season as he draws closer to 30,000 career points. Nowitzki is 149 points away from the milestone.

Bucks to own D-League team

The Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA Development League announced that the Bucks have acquired the right to own and operate an NBA D-League team that will begin play in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the 2017-18 season.

As part of the deal, Fox Valley Pro Basketball, led by Greg Pierce, will be constructing a new 3,500-seat arena for the new minor league team.  With the purchase, the Bucks become the 20th NBA team to own and operate an NBA D-League affiliate, while the NBA D-League grows to a record 25 teams for next season.

Kings' Cousins suspended

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has been suspended one game without pay for receiving his 16th technical foul of the 2016-17 season, it was announced by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

Under NBA rules, a player or coach is automatically suspended without pay for one game once he receives his 16th technical foul during a regular season.  For every two additional technical fouls received during that regular season, the player or coach will be automatically suspended for an additional game.

Cousins received his most recent technical foul with :01.1 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Kings’ 112-107 loss to the Chicago Bulls at Golden 1 Center on Feb. 6.  Cousins will serve his suspension on Feb. 8 when the Kings host the Boston Celtics at Golden 1 Center.

In addition, Cousins has been fined $25,000 for making an inappropriate statement and gesture after leaving the playing court following the Kings’ 109-106 overtime win against the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 4 at Golden 1 Center.

Mavs sign Yogi Ferrell to multi-year deal 

The Dallas Mavericks announced that they have signed rookie guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell to a multi-year contract.

Ferrell (6-0, 180) originally signed a 10-day contract on Jan. 28 and has helped the Mavericks to a 4-1 record since arriving in Dallas. He helped the Mavericks sweep a pivotal back-to-back at San Antonio (1/29) and vs. Cleveland (1/30) in his first two games and scored a career-high 32 points (11-17 FGs, 9-11 3FGs, 1-2s FTs) and a team-high five assists at Portland (2/3). The 6-foot point guard out of Indiana became the first undrafted rookie in NBA history to score 30-plus points and also lead his team in assists.

After connecting on nine 3-pointers at Portland, Ferrell tied the NBA’s rookie record for 3-pointers in a single game, originally set by the Mavericks’ own Roddy Beaubois (at GS, 3/27/10), and joined 2017 All-Stars Stephen Curry, James Harden and Isaiah Thomas as one of only four players to hit nine 3-pointers in a single game this season.

In five games (all starts) with the Mavericks, Ferrell is averaging 17.2 points, 5.0 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals while shooting .431 from the field and .500 from behind-the-arc.

The Indianapolis native went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft and signed as a free agent with the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 9, 2016. Ferrell saw action in 10 games and averaged 5.4 points, 1.7 assists and 1.2 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per contest before being waived on Dec. 8, 2016.

Kerr fined $25,000

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has been fined $25,000 for verbal abuse of game officials and failing to leave the court in a timely manner after his ejection, it was announced by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred with 3:34 remaining in the third quarter of the Warriors’ 109-106 overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 4 at Golden 1 Center.

By Staff of and news services

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