NBA Rumors: Magic Johnson ‘Ignored’ Coaches’ Pleas To Retain Brook Lopez And Julius Randle, Per ‘The Athletic’

New Orleans Pelicans forward/center Julius Randle (L) and Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (R).
Jonathan Bachman / Matthew Stockman / Getty Images

In what has been a career year thus far, Julius Randle first broke out as the New Orleans Pelicans’ sixth man early in the 2018-19 NBA season. He then moved to the starting lineup, where he has maintained his strong performance.

And while Brook Lopez no longer puts up big scoring numbers like he used to with the Brooklyn Nets, his move to the Milwaukee Bucks has arguably helped him find a niche as one of the league’s top three-point shooting centers, per The New York Times. Both Lopez and Randle were key cogs in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2017-18 roster, and a new report suggests that there was notable pressure on team president Magic Johnson to re-sign the two big men during the 2018 offseason.

Citing a subscriber-only article published Monday by The Athletic‘s Bill Oram, Bleacher Report wrote that Johnson allegedly “ignored the pleas” of the Lakers’ coaching staff. The coach staff were reportedly asking Johnson to re-sign Randle and Lopez after the team signed four-time NBA MVP LeBron James to a four-year contract. With the Lakers allowing Randle and Lopez to respectively sign with New Orleans and Milwaukee as free agents, the team instead surrounded James with new veteran acquisitions JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley.

In addition to the above claim, Oram also reported that if the Lakers fire head coach Luke Walton after the season, as many are expecting, such a move “would cause considerable heartburn” for certain team officials who “continue to advocate for him.” This comes after several outlets, including Silver Screen and Roll, reported in previous months that Lakers owner Jeanie Buss remains confident in Walton’s ability to lead the team. This news comes despite the possibility that Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka might replace Walton at some point in the near future.

In an analysis of the above rumors and how they relate to the Lakers’ current situation, Bleacher Report wrote that Julius Randle and Brook Lopez could have helped the team achieve more than they have thus far this season. While James returned from a groin injury that kept him out for a total of 18 games in late January, the Lakers have continued to struggle. They are currently at 11th place in the Western Conference, with a 30-36 record.

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“The playoffs are an absolute long shot at best at this point, but that may not have been the case with Lopez and Randle instead of the journeymen Johnson turned toward,” the publication opined.

As of this writing, Randle is averaging 20.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and three assists for the Pelicans. At only 24-years-old, he has what looks to be a “bright future” ahead of him, Bleacher Report noted.

Lopez, meanwhile, has averages of 12.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game. He is currently shooting a career-best 36.7 percent from beyond the three-point line as a floor-spacing Bucks big man who, according to the outlet, would have been an ideal partner alongside James.