Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson did not hold back when assessing who is to blame for the team’s offseason, namely the decision to pass on signing DeMar DeRozan. The Bulls star has been one of the best NBA players this season, and Johnson revealed that he received a call from DeRozan’s agent showing a strong interest in joining the Lakers. Johnson added that the Lakers “nixed the deal” after LeBron James began talking with Russell Westbrook during the offseason.
“When I think about it, the blame that he’s got to take is the fact that DeRozan ended up in Chicago and not with the Lakers,” Johnson explained during the April 4, 2022 edition of ESPN’s “Get Up.” “Well, because DeRozan wanted to play for the Lakers and when I got the call from his agent, I called the Lakers said, ‘hey, he wants to come home.’
“And DeRozan could have been a Laker instead of a Bull, we could have made that deal. But when Russell [Westbrook] and LeBron and them start talking, that’s when they nixed that deal and went with Westbrook and he became a Laker instead of DeRozan. And I think with DeRozan and then you had a chance to keep the role players [Alex] Caruso, KCP [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope], all those guys who are our best defenders. They left and that’s why we were a bad defensive team but if you sign DeRozan, you only trade [Kyle] Kuzma for Buddy Hield, we would be playing in the Western Conference championship this year with those two guys.”
DeRozan is averaging 28 points, 5.3 rebounds and five assists while shooting 35.5% from long range during his 73 starts with the Bulls this season.
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DeRozan: ‘I Felt Like Going to the Lakers Was a Done Deal’
The Westbrook trade has not gone the way that either the Lakers or the star guard expected things to turn out. Johnson’s comments indicate that James played a critical role in the Lakers’ decision to add Westbrook over other players like DeRozan and Buddy Hield. The L.A. native admitted that he felt like joining the Lakers was a “done deal.”
“I felt like going to the Lakers was a done deal and that we were going to figure it out,” DeRozan told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes on November 16, 2021. “I was going to come home. The business side of things just didn’t work out. A couple of things didn’t align. It didn’t work out. It’s just part of the business, part of the game. My next option was definitely Chicago. So, looking back at it, it worked out well.
DeRozan Had 2 Meetings at James’ Home During Free Agency: Report
The Athletic’s Sam Amick, Shams Charania and Bill Oram reported that James held two meetings with DeRozan at the superstar’s Los Angeles home to discuss the guard potentially joining the Lakers. Talks eventually broke down based on the contract negotiations and DeRozan’s skepticism of the Lakers’ interest level compared to other free agent options.
“One of those potential moves involved DeMar DeRozan, a Compton, Calif., native and former USC star,” Amick, Charania and Oram detailed on September 27, 2021. “He took part in two such meetings at James’ home and had separate ongoing phone conversations with James. His conversations with the Lakers co-stars had gone well, with the then-soon-to-be free agent discussing all the ways in which he thought this new star trio might work.
“With four All-Star Games and a pair of appearances on All-NBA teams to his name, the longtime Toronto Raptor who had spent the previous three seasons with San Antonio, emerged from his meetings with that locker room brain trust believing he was their priority and he might soon be playing in the purple and gold.
“…Yet as the process unfolded, concerns emerged from DeRozan’s side about a perceived disconnect between the Lakers stars and the front office. Were the opinions being shared in the player meetings the same as the front office’s view? Did the left hand know, in essence, what the right hand was doing?”