Magic Johnson

The Lakers need to stop tampering with Ben Simmons and other NBA stars

The Lakers need to stop tampering with Ben Simmons and other NBA stars

There’s nothing the Lakers' franchise loves more than distracting everyone from the team’s underwhelming on-court play for the last nine seasons and leaking rumors about all the star players that want to join their squad.

Before the Lakers suffered a 23-point smackdown at the hands of the Sixers on Sunday, Magic Johnson, the team’s president of basketball operations, spoke to the media in a pregame presser.

Johnson let it slip that Ben Simmons wants to meet with him this summer to discuss some of the secrets of being a power forward-sized point guard with preternatural passing ability:

Elton Brand confirmed this on 97.5 The Fanatic today and he rightly declined to give Magic and Lakers GM Rob Pelinka permission to do that. I’m glad that Brand dunked all over Magic’s face with that smug grin he’s been wearing for 40 years. Why should Brand let Simmons meet with him? What does Simmons tangibly gain from speaking with Magic?

“Hey, throw it to the open player when he can get an easy shot.”

Wow, great insight from Magic, the NBA’s foremost Captain Obvious, known for giving LeBron James the astute advice that he “needs to be LeBron.” would be different if Magic was in the same position of Hakeem Olajuwon, who has spent the last decade working out with NBA players in the offseason. Olajuwon is a paid trainer. Johnson, conversely, is a head decision maker for an organization notorious for tampering with other franchises’ players. Are the people in the NBA league office just asleep? Does Magic Johnson believe the fans of the league are this naive?

To make matters worse, Brand claimed that the talks with Pelinka happened over a month ago. Why is Magic bringing this entire situation up now? Is he trying to save face for the disastrous way the Lakers played themselves in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes? What a shame that the Pelicans didn’t want to take back a smorgasbord of role players and crappy picks for a 25-year-old superstar! Magic strategically dropped this morsel of info that will have bandwagon Lakers fans across the globe salivating and photoshopping Simmons into a Lakers jersey for the next half-dozen years (if they haven’t already been doing that).

Listen, I support players’ agency to take the fate of their careers in their own hands, but I can’t sit idly aside while the Lakers and Magic just pull their “Um, we’re the Lakers and Magic is our president so every star should want to play here” card. It’s not a big market vs. small market thing. It’s a “Why do the Lakers get to do whatever they want?” thing. The Lakers, Magic, and LeBron can all fade into oblivion for all I care.

Just like I’m not going to police who Simmons is dating (by the way: the Sixers are 14-2 in games Kendall Jenner has attended this season), I’m not going to yell that Simmons “owes it” to Philadelphia to stay here. If he wants to flee to Hollywood and go full Fresh Prince, that’s fine, but it’s just infuriating that the Lakers plant their seeds of tampering throughout the league constantly with almost no serious repercussions from NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

This needs to go beyond the slap-on-the-wrist fines that have been given to the Lakers for their tampering with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George. Silver had no issue pushing Sam Hinkie out of the Sixers’ front office. Does he have the guts to do the same thing to one of the greatest players the NBA’s ever seen and basketball’s marquee franchise?

These lines need to be posted on three billboards outside the league’s headquarters in Manhattan:

Lakers tampering with another star.

Still no consequences?

How come, Commissioner Silver?

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More on the Sixers

Ben Simmons wants to talk big guard skills with Magic Johnson

Ben Simmons wants to talk big guard skills with Magic Johnson

Hall of Famer Magic Johnson created a bit of a stir within Sixers Land on Sunday afternoon when he told reporters that Ben Simmons wanted to meet with him during the summer to learn more about playing the point guard position with size.

Johnson, now the Lakers' president of basketball operations, was a phenomenal passer with incredible vision, uniquely playing the position at 6-foot-9.

Simmons runs the point at 6-foot-10 and his game has often been compared to Johnson's because of their similarities in size and skill.

So it seems like an awesome idea for a 22-year-old All-Star seeking ways to improve by reaching out to one of the best to ever play the sport.

Naturally, though, questions arose.

Could this be tampering?

Why is Simmons working with the competition?

Is Johnson luring Simmons to Los Angeles?!?!?!

OK, deep breath. No need to panic here.

Let's look at Johnson's full comment:

He reached out to me — not to me directly, but to the Lakers — to find out if we could get together this summer. I said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to clear it with the league.’ Everybody — the Sixers sign off, we sign off, the league signs off — that there's not nothing going on, but he wants to know how to play the position as a big guard. It's fine, I will do that. But if everybody doesn't sign off, then we can't get together.

It's no secret Simmons has a good friendship with Lakers star LeBron James as the two are represented by the same agency, Klutch Sports Group.

But that means so little to the situation here.

Following Sunday's game against the Lakers at the Wells Fargo Center, Simmons will likely be asked about his desire to meet with Johnson.

And Simmons will likely downplay it. After all, the guy just wants to get better.

Who better to ask than Magic Johnson?

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More on the Sixers

Ben Simmons keeps getting linked with Magic — and for good reason

USA Today Images/AP Images

Ben Simmons keeps getting linked with Magic — and for good reason

Ben Simmons and Magic Johnson. It’s not such a crazy comparison.

With 17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists in the Sixers’ 106-102 Game 4 win Saturday, Simmons became the first rookie to record a playoff triple-double since Johnson in 1980.

It’s not the first time Simmons has been linked with Magic, nor will it be the last. At 6-10, Simmons’ elite passing ability, versatility and flair in the open court mirror the 6-9 Johnson. With 12 regular-season triple-doubles, Simmons passed Johnson for second on the all-time rookie list, behind only Oscar Robertson’s 26.

Oh, and without Joel Embiid in Game 2 of this series, the point guard Simmons jumped for the opening tip, just as Johnson famously did with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Sixers.

You can chalk up some of the early comparisons with Johnson to the natural tendency to see parallels when looking at graceful point guards in big bodies or just insane statistical coincidences, but there’s one important similarity it looks like Simmons might have with Magic — an affinity for big games.

Simmons guided the Sixers to a massive win Saturday, helping his team take a 3-1 series edge over the Heat despite a season-high 26 turnovers. Though Simmons posted seven turnovers himself, he directed the offense masterfully in the second half.

In the fourth quarter, the Sixers had just three turnovers and executed well in their half-court offense despite the extremely physical Heat defense. Simmons scored 15 of his points after halftime, including a powerful drive and dunk with 58.2 seconds left to give the Sixers a 102-99 lead after Dwyane Wade had cut the deficit to one.

As he typically does, Simmons deflected the attention away from himself after the game when asked about joining Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry Lucas and Tom Gola on the list of rookies with playoff triple-doubles.

“I think it just means I’m doing my job,” Simmons told reporters. “The stats I’ve averaged all season have been up there, so it’s not really anything new for the team or myself. As long as we’re winning, I’m happy. All those accolades will come if we’re all doing the right thing.”

Joel Embiid, however, wasn’t shy in talking up his point guard’s accomplishment.

“He was a monster,” Embiid said. “I think that’s the first time the Sixers had a triple-double [in the playoffs] since Charles Barkley, so that’s big-time.”

Embiid knows his Sixers history. Barkley was indeed the last Sixer to record a postseason triple-double. He recorded 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists on April 27, 1991, in a 116-112 OT win in Milwaukee.

JJ Redick was also impressed with Simmons, though he’s getting used to these sort of historic games.

“Ben is Ben,” Redick said. “It’s almost become expected now that he’s gotta go average a triple-double. He’s very tough physically, but he’s even tougher mentally. The last four games have been as vocal and demonstrative as I’ve seen him all season. He’s been fantastic. He’s coming out of his shell in regards to leadership, and that’s huge for us.”

Simmons is averaging 19.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists through the first four games of his playoff career. He’s not quite averaging a triple-double, but he’s about as close as you can get.

And for the record, Magic had five triple-doubles in that incredible 1980 postseason with the Lakers. With Simmons' immense talent and poise under pressure, that’s another Magic milestone within his reach.