Magic Johnson is no longer working for the Los Angeles Lakers, but apparently not everyone is willing to deal with the club without him.
FILE PHOTO – Apr 9, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson speaks to the media before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
According to an ESPN report on Friday, Johnson said he heard that free agent Kawhi Leonard is interested in meeting with him as the NBA Finals MVP prepares to meet with the team, likely in the next few days.
However, Johnson, who stepped down from his role as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations on April 9, is not allowed to be part of official team meetings with prospective free agents, according to NBA rules.
Sources told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Friday that Leonard has requested that only Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and Johnson to be present at the upcoming meeting with the organization. Johnson is willing to help out the Lakers, but hasn’t been asked by the Lakers to be involved, he told ESPN.
“A friend of mine called and says Kawhi wants to meet with you,” Johnson told ESPN on Friday. “I said no problem. I’m available if that’s what this man wants.”
Since the NBA rules dictate Johnson cannot be a formal part of the free agency process, the Lakers have not attempted to bring Johnson aboard, league sources told ESPN.
Johnson and the Lakers continue to communicate, though, on a regular basis, and he is allowed to stay in touch with any of the current players.
“I got a great life. I want to stick to that great life,” Johnson said. “I’m not trying to mess with anybody’s job.”
Since Johnson was responsible for bringing LeBron James to the Lakers with the hope of winning an NBA title, he considers himself to be like a “big brother” to the superstar.
“He signed knowing I was here,” Johnson told ESPN. “That we had a plan. He knew he had a big brother in me as well. He could run things by me. He can still do that.”
According to league sources, James has expressed an interest in attending the meeting with Leonard if the Lakers would like him to be there.
Leonard is an unrestricted free agent after opting out of the final year of his contract with the world champion Toronto Raptors.
—Field Level Media