Former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson remains a prominent voice around the franchise he led to five NBA titles. Johnson has never been one to be afraid to air his thoughts on any matter. With that in mind, the Hall of Famer recently brought up his longstanding grudge against the NBA.
Lakers stumble well short of NBA title contention
The Lakers‘ hopes of capturing a second straight NBA title dissipated quickly with a disappointing first-round playoff exit.
Los Angeles struggled to stay healthy while the supporting cast around LeBron James and Anthony Davis underperformed. Davis and James battled through serious injuries but couldn’t fully recover in time for the playoffs.
The early postseason departure sends the Lakers into an intriguing offseason in which much change lies ahead. With that in mind, a former franchise great aired one of his longstanding grievances with the NBA.
Lakers legend Magic Johnson won’t let go of his nearly 10-year grudge against the NBA
Over the years, the former Lakers great has maintained a pulse on everything around the franchise he helped lead to historic success.
Magic Johnson hasn’t been one to bite his tongue regarding any matter concerning Los Angeles. During a recent interview on ESPN’s KJZ radio show, the Hall of Famer voiced he is still upset at the NBA for vetoing the trade that would have sent star point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers in December 2011.
“I’m still mad at the NBA for not letting that trade go through,” Johnson said. “He should’ve been a Laker a long time ago.”
The blockbuster trade Johnson is referring to is a three-team deal involving the Lakers, the then-New Orleans Hornets, and the Houston Rockets. The proposed transaction featured Los Angeles sending Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Pau Gasol to the Rockets. Meanwhile, the Rockets would have sent Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Goran Dragic to New Orleans.
However, the trade fell through after then-NBA commissioner David Stern stepped in to veto the deal. Stern held temporary controlling power due to New Orleans not possessing a governor at that point before the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
It’s a move that still angers many Lakers fans as it would have paired Paul and Kobe Bryant and changed the course of the league. Bryant held tremendous respect for the star point guard who had a chance to reshape how the back end of his illustrious career unfolded.
Could the Lakers pursue Chris Paul this summer?
The Lakers may have missed out on landing Paul almost a decade ago, but the opportunity could come again in a couple of months.
The 36-year-old is expected to opt out of the $44.2 million player option in the final year of his four-year, $159.7 million deal. He is reportedly eyeing a three-year deal worth around $100 million. The possibility may be a long shot at best, but if Paul holds a mutual interest in teaming up with James and Davis, the Lakers’ front office will likely go the extra mile to make it happen.
Los Angeles would need to move around a few players, likely trading Kyle Kuzma to offload his $13 million salary for the 2021-22 season. The organization wants to compete for another NBA title, and if that means shifting the entire team around its two stars, then so be it.
However, it’s more than likely the star point guard will re-sign with the Phoenix Suns, especially after the deep playoff run that has him two wins away from securing his first NBA Finals appearance. Paul has helped transform the franchise into a legitimate title contender while forming a strong backcourt tandem alongside star Devin Booker.
Only time will tell, but if the opportunity becomes available for the Lakers to snag Paul, don’t expect the franchise to hesitate.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.