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Buss and Kupchak out, Magic in: Lakers blow up front office days before trade deadline

Buss and Kupchak out, Magic in: Lakers blow up front office days before trade deadline

The 2017 NBA trade deadline is Thursday, Feb. 23.

On Tuesday, mere hours before teams make their final big push to shake up the roster for the postseason, the Lakers decided to blow up their front office.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Lakers relieved general manager Mitch Kupchak of his duties and parted ways with Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss.

The team also announced Magic Johnson as the new Director of Basketball Operations.

Kupchak and Buss have been at or near the top of the Lakers' food chain for almost two decades and while they both were part of the team's championship runs, they were also at the forefront of a wide variety of bad hires and questionable trades. 

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Kupchak spent five seasons as a player for the Lakers, and became the team's assistant general manager following his retirement in 1986. He succeeded Jerry West as general manager and was at the helm of the operation from 2000 until Tuesday. Kupchak was instrumental in the 2003 acquisition of Karl Malone and Gary Payton, and oversaw the trades of Shaquille O'Neal and Lamar Odom. 

Buss, the son of late Lakers owner Jerry Buss, and the brother of team president Jeanie Buss, started his tenure with the Lakers in 1998 as an apprentice to general manager Jerry West.

Buss played a role in hiring Rudy Tomjanovich to a five-year, $30 million deal in 2004 to replace the outgoing Phil Jackson. Tomjanovich would later resign midway through the season. Buss also influenced the decision to draft 17-year old center Andrew Bynum in the 2005 NBA Draft. Buss also put a deal in place to acquire Chris Paul from New Orleans for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, but the NBA stepped in and blocked the trade.

During Buss and Kupchak's tenures with the Lakers, the team won five NBA titles and seven Western Conference championships. However, the team has failed to make the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and are currently 20 games below .500.

Johnson, one of the greatest players in franchise and league history, had been recently named an advisor by Jim's sister Jeanie, which resulted in Johnson publicly criticizing the job being done but Buss and Kupchak, and now the all-time great has the front office power he was clamoring for

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Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Washington Wizards experienced plenty during this largely trying regular season. One aspect missing, being on the all-smiles end of a blowout victory. After Wednesday’s 119-95 rout over the Cleveland Cavaliers, they can now check that box.

“It’s nice to experience that as well,” Tomas Satoransky said.

Washington led from start to finish and by double figures for the final 35 minutes. It set season-highs for points in a quarter (41 in the first), the first half (73) and largest halftime margin (21). The Wizards turned 24 Cavalier turnovers into 29 points. All 13 players scored. 

Quality stretches existed this season, but for minutes, a quarter, maybe a half, but rarely over the full 48. Other than a third-quarter dip when the Cavaliers (2-12) closed within 13 points, the Wizards rolled. The romp meant John Wall only played 21 minutes. None of the starters entered in the fourth quarter. That last part happened in recent games, but this time for positive reasons.

“It was great,” Bradley Beal said of a game “[We were] able to come out and get a lead and be able to sustain it and maintain it throughout the game.”

The Wizards maintained little during the opening 11 games of the regular season other than a downtrodden vibe. Their 5-9 record reflects those struggles. The current three-game winning streak signals growth. The postgame locker room smiles and comments displayed some sense of relief.

“I think we needed that, obviously,” Satoransky said to NBC Sports Washington. The reserve point guard was part of the second quarter surge that saw the Wizards outscore the struggling Cavaliers 20-2 for a 61-34 lead.

“They were on a back-to-back and they haven’t been playing well this year. We felt like with a day off after our last win we could come out aggressively, and just keep it going,” said Satoransky, who had eight points, four assists and three steals in 17 minutes. “Trying to turn the season around.”

The Wizards aren’t naïve enough to think all problems are solved. The three wins came against teams with losing records. Victories over Miami and Orlando included shaky stretches. The big picture hole remains.

“We still have a lot of work to do – we still have to get better,” said Beal, who led Washington with 20 points. “We’re still not content with where we are. We put three [wins] together, but we still have a couple more at home that we have to take care of.”

All of that is true. Numerous gloomy statistics remind the reader of the rough beginnings. Washington entered Wednesday allowing a league-high 118.5 points per game. At least now, the Wizards can contemplate their issues without the weight of the world on their shoulders. For now, the league-wide media will find another target after pillaring the Wizards for weeks. Finally, positive momentum arrived and did so with the Nets, Clippers and Trail Blazers rounding out the homestand.

“I hope we can continue winning,” Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington. “We have three more games at home. I think it’s a good moment for us to turn things around. Brooklyn has been playing well and those two [Western Conference] teams are going to be tough, but I think we’re in a good way now.

“It’s great to experience something like that [blowout]. It helps you mentally. It helped just being able to win three in a row. You can feel it. Whenever you step on the court after that you feel more confident, so that’s good.”

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5 must-see moments from the Wizards' blowout win over the Cavs, including John Wall owning Collin Sexton

5 must-see moments from the Wizards' blowout win over the Cavs, including John Wall owning Collin Sexton

The Washington Wizards blasted the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-95 on Wednesday night. Here are five plays or moments worth revisiting...

1. Wall vs Sexton: This game featured a matchup between one of the sport's most accomplished point guards and one who is just getting his career started. John Wall of the Wizards and Collin Sexton of the Cavs went at it and, not surprisingly, Wall had the edge on the rookie.

The five-time All-Star only scored eight points, but two of them came on a play that made Sexton show his inexperience. Wall zoomed down the court and had Sexton way off balance as he backpedaled towards the rim:

 

In addition to eight points, Wall had nine assists, two steals, and a block. He played only 21 minutes because the Wizards were able to rest their starters late due to the blowout.

2. Beal's big dunk: Bradley Beal put up some impressive numbers for a guy who only played 28 minutes. He posted 20 points with three assists, three rebounds, and three steals. He also hit his 900th career three-pointer.

This was his best play, a two-handed slam that Jordan Clarkson wanted no part of:

Speaking of Clarkson, what the heck was this, man?

3. Oubre's block: Kelly Oubre Jr. only shot 3-for-11, but did a lot of other things to help the Wizards win. He pulled in seven rebounds, had a steal and a block.

His block was nasty:

4. Mahinmi's first three: This was the most memorable moment of the night. Ian Mahinmi, playing in his 11th season and his 556th regular season, knocked down his first career three-pointer.

As we learned afterward, Wall set it all up. He told Mahinmi to go to the corner and, sure enough, it worked:

5. Beal's and-1: Beal had eight of his 20 points in the third quarter as the Wizards held off the Cavs' final push. This play was a good example of how he was just plain feeling it.

The Cavs had no hope in stopping him get to the rim for an and-1:

The Wizards have now won three straight games. At 5-9, they are only one game out of a playoff spot, which is crazy to think about given how poorly they started off the year.

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