Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka believes the team can win a NBA championship as soon as next season.

The Lakers missed the playoffs for the sixth successive season after finishing 2018-19 with a 37-45 record, despite the arrival of superstar LeBron James.

Los Angeles parted with head coach Luke Walton, while Magic Johnson stood down as president of the Lakers.

However, Pelinka is confident about the Lakers' future, especially after the franchise received the fourth pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

"I think if people take a look at where this franchise is right now," Pelinka told reporters on Monday. "We have a high draft pick. We have a great young core, maybe one of the best in the league.

"We have a superstar on our team, and an open slot. So, I think people can look at this as an opportunity to win a championship possibly next year."

The Lakers entered the season with high expectations after James left the Cavaliers and signed a four-year, $153.3million contract.

Los Angeles opened with a 20-14 record before James strained his groin on Christmas Day. He missed the next 17 games and the team never recovered.

Los Angeles also dealt with injuries to key role players — including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma — throughout 2018-19.

"We know the characteristics and qualities we stand for," Pelinka said. "And we know as a staff and feel very strongly that if people judge and evaluate us for who we are as an organisation and the vision and path we have going forward, we feel there will be a very, very strong appeal for the great players to come here."

Magic Johnson, who shockingly stepped down from his position as the Lakers president of basketball operations before the team's final game of the season, blasted Pelinka and accused him of "backstabbing" during an interview with ESPN earlier on Monday.

Pelinka denied Johnson's accusations at the news conference — which was held to introduce new Lakers coach Frank Vogel.

Magic Johnson revealed how an erosion of his power, plus the breakdown of his relationship with general manager Rob Pelinka, led to him leaving his role with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Johnson, a franchise legend having helped them win five NBA titles during his playing career, abruptly resigned as the team's president of basketball operations in April.

He said during an impromptu media conference at the time he was tired of the "backstabbing", something he explained in greater detail during an appearance on ESPN's First Take show on Monday.

Johnson identified Pelinka as the individual he was referring to, divulging how agents had called him to warn him about the Lakers' general manager, though he decided to give him a "fair shot".

"I started hearing, 'Magic's not working hard enough', 'Magic’s not in the office'. People around the Laker office were telling me Rob was saying things and I didn't like those things being said behind my back," he explained.

"I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things were said to them outside of basketball, now not just in the Laker office. Now it's in the media and so on."

Despite the presence of LeBron James, the Lakers posted a 37-45 record as they finished 10th in the Western Conference.

With turmoil – and losses – mounting this season, Johnson said he reached a point where he felt the team needed to go in a different direction, leading to a situation with then-coach Luke Walton that he described as "the straw that broke the camel's back".

"I wanted to fire Luke Walton," he said. "We had three meetings. I showed [controlling owner Jeanie Buss] the things he did well and then the things he didn't do well. I said, 'Listen we got to get a better coach'. I like him, he's great, former Laker, the whole thing.

"So, the first day: 'Well, let's think about it'. The second day: 'Okay, you can fire him'. Then, the next day: 'No, we should try to work it out'.

"So when we went back and forth like that and then she brought [Lakers chief operating officer] Tim Harris to the meeting ...and Tim wanted to keep him because he's friends with Luke. Luke's a great guy, great guy. So when I looked up I said, 'Wait a minute'. I only really answer to Jeanie Buss and now I've got Tim involved. I said, 'It's time for me to go'.

"I've got things happening, that's being said behind my back, and I don't have the power that I thought I had to make the decisions. And I [had] told them when it's not fun for me and when I think I don't have the decision-making power I thought I had, then I've got to step aside."

After Johnson's sudden departure, the Lakers announced they would not fill the team president role. Walton, meanwhile, was fired after the team missed out on the playoffs.

Who would be the lucky team to nab Duke's Zion Williamson? It was an eventful week in the United States as the question many people had been asking for months was just about answered.

This was almost more pressing than anything going on in the NBA playoffs despite Kawhi Leonard's dramatics in the final moments of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

The team who won the NBA Draft lottery was a surprise and made the story even more compelling.

All that and more this week in US Sports.

 

1. The Pelicans may be losing one star but adding another

The prize of the lottery was Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans were the lucky team to earn the right to draft him, getting the top pick in the upcoming draft.

The Memphis Grizzlies will pick second and the New York Knicks – who Williamson reportedly wanted to go to – will pick third.

This creates an interesting scenario as Pelicans star Anthony Davis still does not want to re-sign with the team, but New Orleans' new executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin is not giving up on bringing him back.

The next couple of months in the NBA will be a lot of fun and that entertainment once again has nothing to do with what is going on on the floor.

2. Lakers finally get their man

The Lakers have a new coach and his name is Frank Vogel.

The former Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic coach was hired by the Lakers this week after Luke Walton agreed to mutually part ways last month.

But, even with the signing of a new coach, there is still drama in Los Angeles as the Lakers hired Jason Kidd to be a prominent assistant on Vogel's staff.

It has already led to speculation as to just how long Vogel will be at the helm.

 

3. 76ers stick with the status quo

There will be no major shakeup on the Philadelphia 76ers' coaching staff after they fell in seven games to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

It was reported that Brett Brown would likely be fired if Philadelphia did not win Game 7 on Sunday, but on Monday, the 76ers announced they were bringing Brown back.

The coach has amassed a 178-314 record in six years with the team, but has also been at the helm for Philadelphia's last two playoff runs in which they won a combined 103 games over the past two seasons.

Now the question for Philadelphia becomes is who they can bring back? Do Tobias Harris or Jimmy Butler re-sign with the team? That remains to be seen.

4. Yankees health gets a boost, takes another hit

The New York Yankees finally got some reinforcements this week as Aaron Hicks made his return to the lineup, but that did not come without a bit of bad news as well.

Miguel Andujar is all but officially done for the season as he has elected to undergo surgery on the torn labrum in his right shoulder.

So the Yankees got some help but also permanently lost a player for the season.

 

5. Edwin Jackson sets MLB record

This is one of the weirder records in MLB history, but it is still a pretty cool one.

The Oakland Athletics traded starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to the Blue Jays this week and when Jackson made his start with Toronto, he became the first pitcher in history to pitch for 14 different organisations.

Jackson passed Octavio Dotel for the MLB record and, at 35 years old, he still has some time to add to that number.

The order for the 2019 NBA Draft in Brooklyn, New York on June 20 has been set.

Tuesday's lottery determined the New Orleans Pelicans will receive the number one pick, shocking nearly everyone.

Here are three takeaways from the lottery results:

 

Things could be turning around for Pelicans

New Orleans had a six per cent chance to win the lottery and beat the odds to come out on top.

The Pelicans have an opportunity to draft this year's top prospect, Zion Williamson, with the first pick. Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds on 68 per cent shooting in his freshman season at Duke. He became just the third freshman in NCAA history to win the Naismith Award. The last freshman to do so was Anthony Davis, who was selected first overall by New Orleans in 2012.

Davis surprisingly requested a trade in 2018-19 and was rumoured to prefer joining the Los Angeles Lakers, who reportedly offered up a hefty package for the superstar. However, New Orleans elected to keep Davis and weigh their options this summer.

Many assumed that Davis would be traded over the offseason, but having Williamson in the fold could change things. This year's lottery has breathed new life into New Orleans' future, and it could drastically impact the landscape of the NBA.

 

Knicks' hopes were crushed 

It seemed like all of New York was hoping to land the top pick. The Knicks had a 14 per cent chance of winning the lottery, and those odds were only matched by the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Instead, New York dropped to third. Williamson is simply considered to be in a tier of his own. 

The Knicks still have a chance to land a player with star potential, though, as another Blue Devil in RJ Barrett will likely be available. But he may not be enough to persuade premier free agents like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to move to the Big Apple.

 

Lakers received a pleasant surprise

Los Angeles had lofty expectations entering this season. After all, the Lakers traded for an all-time great in LeBron James and had a plethora of young talent.

But the Lakers superstar missed 27 games in 2018-19. The team recorded a 37-45 record and missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year.

Draft night likely went better than expected, though, as Los Angeles had just a two per cent chance of winning the lottery and managed to come in at fourth. The Lakers could draft a prospect with the potential to contribute immediately at this position, which is probably more than they anticipated.

Zion Williamson could find a new home in New Orleans after the Pelicans secured the top pick in the NBA Draft.

The draft lottery took place on Tuesday, with the Pelicans (33-49) awarded the rights to select first ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies (33-49) in Brooklyn, New York on June 20.

It is only the second time in franchise history New Orleans will select first. The Pelicans – who are battling to retain wantaway star Anthony Davis – had just a six per cent chance to secure the pick.

Duke sensation Williamson is projected to be taken with the number one pick and New Orleans are in pole position to draft the 18-year-old.

This was the first year that the league's three worst teams in the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns all had an equal chance (14 per cent) to land the first pick.

In past years, the breakdown looked more like 25 per cent, 19.9 per cent and 15.6 per cent.

But now with the new setup, madness ensued.

The Suns dropped to sixth and the Cavaliers to fifth while the Knicks will select third. All the while, the Los Angeles Lakers — who had only a two per cent chance at the top selection — moved up to fourth.

Williamson is all but assured to go first after his freshman season at Duke. Fellow Blue Devil RJ Barrett and Murray State star Ja Morant – who has been compared to the likes of Russell Westbrook – are also projected to be top selections.

 

Here are the full NBA Draft 2019 lottery results:

1. New Orleans Pelicans
2. Memphis Grizzlies
3. New York Knicks
4. Los Angeles Lakers
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
6. Phoenix Suns
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Atlanta Hawks
9. Washington Wizards
10. Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks)
11. Minnesota Timberwolves
12. Charlotte Hornets
13. Miami Heat
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings)

The Los Angeles Lakers announced Frank Vogel as their head coach on Monday.

Former Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic coach Vogel signed a multi-year contract, though terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The 45-year-old replaces Luke Walton, who left the Lakers in April after the NBA franchise missed the playoffs despite the arrival of LeBron James.

"I am very excited for this opportunity to join the Lakers, a prestigious organisation that I have long admired," Vogel said. "I look forward to coaching such phenomenal talent and bringing my strategic vision to the team."

Vogel led the Pacers to five playoff series in six years after being named Indiana's interim coach in 2011, including back-to-back Eastern Conference finals appearances in 2013 and 2014.

He was hired by Orlando in 2016 but was fired at the end of the 2017-18 season. He posted a 304-291 (.511) career mark in 595 games

"We are excited to add Frank Vogel as the next head coach of the Lakers," Lakers general Rob Pelinka announced in a statement.

"Coach Vogel has a proven track record of success in the NBA Playoffs, and he reflects the core qualities we were looking for in a head coach – including, detailed game preparation, extreme hard work, and holding players accountable to the highest basketball standards."

According to an ESPN report on Saturday, former Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd is expected to join him as a lead assistant.

The Lakers reportedly favoured former Cleveland Cavaliers coach and long-time friend of superstar forward James for the job, but negotiations fell apart over a contract dispute.

A group of Los Angeles Lakers fans protested outside of Staples Center amid the NBA team's struggles.

A small but extremely vocal group of fans gathered outside the arena on Friday, voicing their displeasure with the Lakers' executives.

Rather than holding torches and pitchforks, the fans hoisted signs that made their demands clear, calling for the ouster of team owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka.

The Lakers suffered through an underachieving season after the acquisition of free agent LeBron James had some fans talking championship.

Beyond the poor 37-45 record, the Lakers suffered from issues in the front office and in player chemistry. The team infamously and unsuccessfully offered a handful of its young stars in a bid to trade for disgruntled New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis. There were reports that James and his younger teammates were not on the same page.

The mess has continued this offseason, as head coach Luke Walton was fired, and Magic Johnson unexpectedly resigned as team president. Tyronn Lue also reportedly turned down the team's offer as coach when the Lakers offered him a three-year rather than a five-year deal. 

"My uncle had Magic. My older brother had Kobe [Bryant], one fan told ESPN. "I've got LeBron. He's brought me nothing. A change needs to happen right now. Get Buss out of here. They're too incompetent for this city, and we don't want it anymore."

Another supporter, Charlie Rivers, said: "I think I already got it -- media coverage, have the talking heads speak about it, analysts talk about the inept decision-making by the front office, basketball operations needing a change up there.

"I don't mean it to be a personal attack on [owner] Jeanie Buss or anything like that. I just don't agree with their decision-making on a front-office level. Nepotism shouldn't be involved when it comes to decision-making."

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James enjoyed watching Zion Williamson play at Duke.

The forward was a star during his freshman season with the Blue Devils and is widely expected to be the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

James discussed Williamson during the latest episode of HBO's 'The Shop'.

"I've watched him a lot over the last year," James said. "The one thing I noticed with his one year at Duke was, his energy was infectious, man. Every possession, it seemed like he could make a difference on the outcome of the game … He's the most talked about guy in a long time."

Williamson was the story of college basketball in 2018-19. He averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 68 per cent from the field.

He was also a force defensively as he tallied 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game.

James left the Cleveland Cavaliers and signed a four-year, $153.3million contract with the Lakers in July. He averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists in his first season in Los Angeles. But, the team finished with a 37-45 record and missed the playoffs.

The 2019 NBA Draft lottery will be held later this month. The New York Knicks, Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns all have a 14 per cent chance of landing the top pick.

LeBron James labelled Magic Johnson's abrupt resignation "weird" as the Los Angeles Lakers superstar finally broke his silence.

Former Lakers president Johnson called an impromptu news conference before the team's final game of the season and announced he was stepping down last month.

Johnson cited the fact he could not be himself in his current position.

James – who left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Lakers at the start of the season – discussed Johnson's sudden exit on Saturday.

"It was just weird for [Johnson] to just be like… 'Nah, I'm out of here'," James said on his HBO show "The Shop".

"And not even have [a heads-up] like: 'Hey, Bron… kiss my a**. I'm out of here'. I would have been okay with that. Like: 'Hey, Bron, it's Magic. kiss my a**; I'm gone'. It wasn't even that."

It was long rumoured James was unaware this was going to happen and his comments on "The Shop" confirm that.

"What do you mean [stepped down]?", James recalled telling business partner Randy Mims when he told him of the news. "Like, from out of his car? I'm like: 'Man, get the f*** out of my face. You're bulls******* me'."

It was a tumultuous season for the Lakers, who parted with head coach Luke Walton after missing the playoffs again.

The Lakers appear on the brink of hiring James' former coach with the Cavaliers Tyronn Lue, according to multiple reports.

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are at the top of the NBA – for jersey sales.

Lakers superstar James boasts the most popular jersey on the league's merchandise list and Los Angeles were the highest selling team, according to NBA Store sales.

Stephen Curry and reigning champions the Golden State Warriors fell into second in both categories after topping the charts last term and spending three consecutive regular seasons at number one.

The rankings are based on sales since the beginning of the 2018-19 season.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid rounded out the top-five most popular jerseys.

Their respective teams also finished in the top-five most popular team jerseys. Boston, Philadelphia and Milwaukee all trailed Los Angeles and Golden State.

 

LeBron James does not seem upset with the Los Angeles Lakers, dismissing a report on Wednesday.

ESPN reported earlier this week the 34-year-old star's trust in the "organisation has been damaged – maybe irrevocably".

James, however, denied the report on his Instagram story on Wednesday. He was working out and watching ESPN's 'First Take' in the video.

"That. Is. Not. True," James said. "It's not true at all. I'm actually at the Lakers facility right now."

Magic Johnson shockingly stepped down from his position as the Lakers president of basketball operations before the team's final game of the season at an impromptu news conference. James was reportedly "stunned" by Johnson's decision.

"I had more fun on the other side than on this side," Johnson said at the news conference. "Because now, tomorrow, I would have to affect somebody's life. And I've thought about that. That's not fun for me. That's not who I am… I want to go back to having fun. I want to go back to who I was before taking on this job."

The Lakers later parted ways with coach Luke Walton, who was hired by the Sacramento Kings one day later.

The Lakers entered the season with high expectations after James left the Cleveland Cavaliers and signed a four-year, $153.3million contract with the team last offseason. Los Angeles opened with a 20-14 record before James suffered a strained groin on December 25. He missed the next 17 games and the team never recovered.

James, who had reached eight straight NBA Finals, was eventually shut down in late March.

James finished his first season in Los Angeles averaging 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists in 55 appearances.

The Lakers have reportedly interviewed Tyronn Lue, Jason Kidd and Monty Williams, among others, to replace Walton.

The Golden State Warriors start their NBA playoffs campaign looking to join an elite group of teams by winning their third successive title. 

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said the Los Angeles Lakers have lost "one of the best human beings" after Luke Walton's departure.

The Lakers and third-year coach Walton agreed to mutually part ways on Friday following a tumultuous season.

Los Angeles missed the playoffs again despite LeBron James' arrival, while Magic Johnson stepped down as team president on Tuesday.

Kerr addressed Walton's exit on Friday, telling reporters: "I'm disappointed for Luke. In this job, as a coach in the NBA, you are 100 per cent dependent on your circumstances — the strength of your organisation, the momentum, the unity.

"Everything has to be in good order. If it's not, as we have witnessed with the Lakers, then there's going to be casualties and usually the coach is the first one.

"They're losing one of the best human beings in the NBA, they're losing a guy who knows the game as well as anybody I've ever met."

Walton was an assistant on Golden State's staff from 2014 to 2016. He served as the interim head coach of the Warriors, leading them to an NBA record 24-0 start and 39-4 win-loss ratio before Kerr returned from health issues.

The Warriors finished 2015-16 with a 73-9 mark – an NBA record. Kerr was named the NBA's Coach of the Year that season, despite being present for fewer games than Walton.

Walton went 98-148 in his three years with the Lakers and said Los Angeles would always be "special" to him and his family in a statement following his release.

The Lakers finished 2018-19 with a 37-45 record, missing the playoffs for the sixth successive season.

Luke Walton has left his role as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The team announced in a statement on Friday they had "mutually agreed to part ways" with the third-year coach, capping a tumultuous week in Los Angeles.

Walton's departure comes three days after team president Magic Johnson stepped down from his role with the Lakers. He alluded to wanting to fire Walton but indicated he did not want to do so because owner Jeanie Buss supported him as the head coach.

There were also rumours that LeBron James, who signed a four-year, $153.3 million contract with Los Angeles this offseason — did not get along with Walton and wanted a new head coach.

"We would like to thank Luke for his dedicated service over the last three years," general manager Rob Pelinka said in a statement. “We wish Luke and his family the best of luck moving forward.”

Walton went 98-148 in his three years in the job.

The Lakers won more games in each year he was at the helm, but his late game-management came into question at times toward the end of his tenure. 

"I want to thank Jeanie Buss and the Buss family for giving me the opportunity to coach the Lakers," Walton said in a statement. "This franchise and the city will always be special to me and my family."

Tyronn Lue has been touted as a candidate to replace Walton in recent months, while former New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams is also expected to be a candidate.

Lue was the head coach for the Cavaliers over the last three seasons when James was in Cleveland, including in 2016, when the Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors to the NBA title. 

The Lakers finished this season 37-45 and have failed to reach the playoffs over the last six seasons. They have not finished better than 10th in the conference in that time.

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