May 29, 2019 / 2:20 AM / 4 months ago

NBA notebook: Magic denies mistreating employees during Lakers' stint

Reacting to an ESPN report earlier Tuesday that described a toxic culture in the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office, Magic Johnson denied mistreating any employees during his stint as team president that ended last month.

FILE PHOTO: Apr 9, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson speaks to the media before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

“Do you think (owner) Jeanie Buss would allow me to abuse the employees? If that was the case, she would have called me in,” Johnson said in an ESPN television interview with Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon. (Chief financial officer) Joe McCormack would have called me in, the lawyer for the Lakers. ... It never happened. I’m a person who brings everybody together, uplift the employees. I’ve never abused an employee, and I never will. That’s not what I’m about.”

The ESPN report included a claim that Rich Paul, the agent of Lakers star LeBron James, went directly to NBA commissioner Adam Silver to lobby for head coach Luke Walton to be fired early in the season. Walton was fired at the end of the 2018-19 regular season. Paul told Silver, per the report, that Tyronn Lue would be the ideal coach.

The ESPN report claimed Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were often working unilaterally, including on potential trades and in free agency. Pelinka, with input from the Buss Family and advisor Kurt Rambis, is at the controls entering the 2019 offseason but James is reportedly leading the recruitment of free agents.

—Golden State forward Kevin Durant reportedly is traveling with the team to Toronto, indicating he could possibly return from his calf injury for Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday.

The Warriors have ruled the two-time Finals MVP out for Thursday night’s series opener against the Raptors. Durant has averaged 34.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 11 games this postseason.

The 10-time All-Star injured his right calf on May 8 during Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets. He missed the entire four-game sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the West finals.

—Duke center Marques Bolden will keep his name in the 2019 NBA Draft, leaving the Blue Devils with a year of eligibility remaining. Bolden appeared in 35 games (21 starts) for the Blue Devils, averaging 5.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 19 minutes.

—Duke’s Javin DeLaurier will return to Durham, N.C., for his senior season, according to Jeff Goodman of Stadium. DeLaurier averaged 3.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game. He appeared in 38 games, starting 16.

—LSU guard Skylar Mays will return to the Tigers, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports. Mays started every game, averaging 13.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 steals.

—LSU guard Marlon Taylor also will return to school. Taylor started 24 of 35 games last season, averaging 6.7 points and 3.6 rebounds.

—Louisville forward V.J. King will give up his final year of eligibility and stay in the draft, he announced on Twitter. In three seasons with the Cardinals, King played in 101 games (48 starts) and averaged 6.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

—Louisville big man Steven Enoch announced on Instagram that he has withdrawn from the draft pool and is returning to school for his senior season. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 34 games for the Cardinals in 2018-19.

—Mike Callahan was selected to be an NBA Finals referee for the 16th time as one of 12 officials chosen to handle the best-of-seven series between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors. Scott Foster was picked for the 12th time while Kane Fitzgerald and Eric Lewis were selected for the first time.

The other members of the 12-man pool are Tony Brothers (eighth Finals), James Capers (eighth), Marc Davis (eighth), John Goble (third), David Guthrie (second), Ed Malloy (seventh), Jason Phillips (sixth) and Zach Zarba (sixth).

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