This season has been perhaps the most disappointing in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. While there have been teams with worse records, the combination of preseason expectations and the real likelihood of missing the playoffs may put this at the top of the list and everyone from current players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis, to legends like Magic Johnson, have their reasons as to why the season has gone down the way it has.
The biggest move the team made this offseason, and the most criticized, was the trade for point guard Russell Westbrook. This was not only due to concerns about Westbrook’s fit but also because Chicago Bulls wing DeMar DeRozan was also interested in joining the Lakers this offseason.
In fact, DeRozan was so interested in joining the Lakers that his agent actually called Magic Johnson to try and help make the deal happen. Johnson appeared on ESPN’s Get Up and said that the if there’s one thing LeBron has to take the blame on, it is getting Westbrook to the Lakers instead of DeRozan:
“When I think about it, the blame that he’s gotta take is the fact that DeRozan ended up in Chicago and not with the Lakers […] Because DeRozan wanted to play with the Lakers, and when I got the call from his agent, I called the Lakers and said ‘Hey, he wants to come home’ and DeRozan could’ve been a Laker instead of a Bull, we could’ve made that deal. But when Russ and LeBron started talking, that’s when they nixed that deal and went with Westbrook and he became a Laker instead of DeRozan.”
DeRozan wanting to join the Lakers isn’t something new as he himself has spoken about his belief that he was headed to LA in the offseason. But it is very interesting that his agent gave Magic a call even though he is no longer associated with the Lakers in any official capacity.
Furthermore, Magic believes that with DeRozan in the fold as opposed to Westbrook, the Lakers could have kept some of the role players they lost and would be much better off for it:
“And I think with DeRozan and then you had a chance to keep the role players Caruso, KCP, all those guys who are our best defenders they left, and that’s why were a bad defensive team. But if you sign DeRozan, you only trade Kuzma for Buddy Hield, we would be playing in the Western Conference Championship this year with those two guys.”
Watching DeRozan put forth an MVP-caliber season in Chicago only makes the move hurt even worse in the eyes of many Lakers fans. But Johnson may be off in the other moves the Lakers could have made after acquiring DeRozan.
A DeRozan deal would have almost certainly cost the Lakers a player or two like a Caldwell-Pope. Additionally, it would be a sign-and-trade deal, which would have triggered a hard cap for the Lakers. If the Lakers hypothetically made the Kuzma and Harrell for Buddy Hield trade that was expected, that also adds Hield’s contract worth $23 million this season with DeRozan’s $26 million.
Adding those two would have made it impossible to keep both Caldwell-Pope and Caruso, and the Lakers were obviously intent on re-signing Talen Horton-Tucker as well. But regardless of the other moves that could have been made, DeRozan’s desire to join the Lakers was clear and the team chose to look elsewhere which may have cost them a chance at success this season.
Magic Johnson calls for Lakers fans to support Russell Westbrook and family
Even though Johnson believes the Lakers made a mistake in acquiring Westbrook over DeRozan, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t continue to support the team and players throughout the struggles. That includes Westbrook, who has come under intense scrutiny from fans with some unfortunately crossing the line and mentioning his family.
Magic took to social media to call for fans to stop targeting Westbrook’s family saying that those types of threats should not be tolerated and have no place in the sport.
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