Luka To Lakers? Is Magic Tampering Again?

Mike Fisher

DALLAS - On-court dominance took a long vacation from Los Angeles. But it’s back now, where it belongs, in the Lakers trophy case ... positioned right alongside its award for off-court arrogance.

How else to explain on-again/off-again Lakers executive Magic Johnson once again clumsily suggesting in public that another franchise’s star should be a Laker?

Johnson Is not presently employed by the Lakers. But he remains an organizational figure, a sort of spiritual basketball leader, and a franchise mouthpiece. Why else would he be a featured guest on a national TV show celebrating the Lakers NBA finals victory?

Max Kellerman interviewed Johnson on ESPN’s “First Take,” with Kellerman suggesting that Doncic would be a strong candidate to team with Anthony Davis once LeBron James retires.

Johnson, initially and wisely, refuses to take the bait.

“I’m not worried about Luka right now,” Johnson said. “We can’t worry about Luka right now. We’re talking about right now.”

But then Kellerman gave it a nudge. And Magic ... "pulled a Magic.''

“Aye that’s right,'' Johnson finally said. "Luka, come on to the Lakers, I like that.''

We can get into the technical specifics of Johnson's present non-employment with the Lakers - but that doesn't erase the seedy covetousness of one of the organization's two most prominent figures (Magic alongside LeBron). We can also get into the technical specifics of Doncic's contractual future; the 21-year-old All-NBA honoree is only two years into his first NBA contract and will only be a restricted free agent when that deal concludes in 2022. Then comes the ability for the Mavericks to match any deal that another team offers, and the likely continuation of the "Mav For Life'' career both Doncic and owner Mark Cuban have spoken of often.

As Luka said at Mavs Media Day 2019, noting a desire to emulate Dirk Nowitzki in one-franchise longevity: “Dirk’s been here 21 years. I want to stay here. If they want me, I'll be here.''

READ MORE: Luka Doncic's bold Dirk-like commitment: 'I want to stay here'

READ MORE: Mavs 'First In Line for Giannis'

Teams naturally covet players from other teams; there is no way for the NBA to block that. But by rule, the desire for other teams' employees must be privately-held. You will notice that the Mavericks connection with Giannis Antetokounmpo Is one being voiced by people like Bryan Windhorst and yours truly, not one being voiced by Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson.

Johnson possesses such a jovial goofiness that he's allowed to bend rules of decorum ... and rules, period. But the NBA is trying to prevent an anarchistic "screw-the-contract'' free flow of talent. And as usual, the willingness of Magic Johnson - and by extension, the Los Angeles Lakers - to flaunt the rule speaks volumes about that organization's arrogance ... championships notwithstanding.