Count Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James among those who were stunned by team president Magic Johnson’s resignation on Tuesday night. But according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne on Wednesday, James still stands behind the organization and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.
ESPN also reported that head coach Luke Walton participated in exit meetings with the players on Wednesday. Walton’s job security is in jeopardy after the Lakers (37-45) missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season despite the offseason signing of James to a four-year, $154 million deal.
James, 34, battled injuries and appeared in a career-low 55 games and averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game in 2018-19.
—Following his meeting with Walton, James headed to New York, where he, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony watched Dwyane Wade play his final NBA game. The Miami Heat closed out the season against the Brooklyn Nets.
After a pregame video tribute to Wade, the retiring superstar went over and hugged each of his three friends. The four have been friends for years, their bond immortalized by a photo of James, Wade and Paul riding a banana boat together while on vacation in 2015. Anthony was not in the picture but was also on vacation with the group.
—Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has a torn left oblique and could miss the first two rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Smart averaged 8.9 points, 4.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds this season for the Celtics, who will be the fourth seed in the East after posting a 49-33 regular-season record. Boston will open at home this weekend against the fifth-seeded Indiana Pacers. The physical guard is noted as one of the NBA’s top defenders.
Smart sustained the injury in a game against the Orlando Magic on Sunday, and he did not play in Tuesday’s regular-season finale at Washington.
—Anthony Davis acknowledged that despite his desire to leave New Orleans, he could begin the 2019-20 season with the Pelicans.
“I’m under contract still,” Davis said during an informal season-ending news conference. “I have a year left. Obviously it’s a possibility it could happen. I don’t have ill will toward anybody. I know that it’s a possibility that next year I could be here as well. So I can’t be mad if I’m here next year.”
Davis said his next step will be to see who emerges as the general manager for the Pelicans. Dell Demps was fired in February after his handling of the Davis situation, and Danny Ferry is the interim general manager.
—The Phoenix Suns have hired longtime NBA general manager Jeff Bower as their vice president of operations, Wojnarowski reported.
Bower, 57, was general manager of the then-New Orleans Hornets from October 2005 to July 2010, and he also served as the team’s head coach for most of the 2009-10 season after the firing of Byron Scott.
The Suns have been without a general manager since Ryan McDonough was fired a week before the start of the 2018-19 season.
—The Minnesota Timberwolves plan to offer interim coach Ryan Saunders a multiyear deal as early as this week, league sources told ESPN.
Saunders, 32, is the youngest head coach in the league. He took over when Tom Thibodeau was fired in early January and has earned the endorsement of his players, most notably from All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Timberwolves were 36-45 entering Wednesday night’s season finale at Denver, including a 17-24 mark under Saunders’ leadership. Saunders reportedly will receive a three-year deal with a team option on the final season.
—The Timberwolves also announced that guard Jeff Teague underwent successful debridement surgery Tuesday to clean out his left ankle. The team had no additional updates as to any recovery timetable.
Teague played in 42 games for the Minnesota this season, averaging 12.1 points and a career-best 8.2 assists in 30.1 minutes. The team shut him down for the season in mid-March.
—Field Level Media