What a bonkers night in the NBA. Dwyane Wade played his final home game, scoring 30 in a Miami win as the Heat were eliminated from playoff contention due to outside action. Dirk Nowitzki confirmed to fans he is retiring at the end of the season, and scored 30 in a Mavericks win in Dallas. Hell, even Jamal Crawford — who hasn’t said he’s retiring but also didn’t have a team until basically opening night and feels on the precipice of retirement — popped off for a magical 51 points at age 38 in the Suns’ season finale.
But of coure this was all overshadowed by the shocking resignation of a front office legend: the Lakers’ Magic Johnson.
Johnson held an impromptu press conference before the Lakers’ season finale, and declared he would be stepping down as president of basketball operations effective immediately. This truly was a surprise for everyone — Magic didn’t tell Lakers franchise owner Jeannie Buss it was coming in a purported three-hour conversation on Monday, nor did he spill the news with his deputy Rob Pelinka, LeBron James, Luke Walton, or anyone. He straight-up told journalists wielding tape recorders and Twitter before he told anyone directly with the Lakers.
That’s when you know you’re a legend: when you write your own rules.
Thus ends a truly incredible era of Lakers basketball with Johnson at the reins.
Johnson declared that the mission was accomplished, that the Lakers are back on the right path and that he would not have resigned if that weren’t the case. He basically said “you’re welcome” to a surely grateful Lakers fan base. LEGEND.
The fact Johnson resigned when no one was talking about firing him is basically unprecedented for a front office leader in the NBA, outside of maybe Jerry West. LEGEND.
Despite the unorthodox nature of Johnson’s announcement — telling the world you’re quitting the job your boss fired her brother to give you before you talk to her face-to-face, wooo brother — the Lakers and Buss gushed about Johnson in the aftermath, refusing to feed into any negativity generated by “conventions” and “norms.” This is the Lakers’ way of thanking him. This is the only franchise that could possibly understand Johnson’s very specific flavor of genius and the eccentricities that go along with it. You can’t cage a raging bull, and you can’t force Magic Johnson to act like a normal general manager.
Salute to the legends the NBA will be forever changed by: Wade, Nowitzki, Crawford and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson. We will remember your immense contributions to the game.
Hornets 124, Cavaliers 97
Grizzlies 93, Pistons 100
Celtics 116, Wizards 110
Sixers 99, Heat 122
Knicks 96, Bulls 86
Raptors 120, Timberwolves 100
Warriors 112, Pelicans 103
Suns 109, Mavericks 120
Nuggets 108, Jazz 118
Rockets 111, Thunder 112
Blazers 104, Lakers 101
Last night of the regular season. All times Eastern. Games on League Pass unless otherwise noted.
Pacers at Hawks, 8
Heat at Nets, 8
Magic at Hornets, 8, ESPN
Pistons at Knicks, 8
Bulls at Sixers, 8
Warriors at Grizzlies, 8
Thunder at Bucks, 8
Mavericks at Spurs, 8
Timberwolves at Nuggets, 10:30
Jazz at Clippers, 10:30, ESPN
Kings at Blazers, 10:30
It’s really hard to mentally process everything that Johnson’s resignation overshadowed on Tuesday. But perhaps the most critical development was the Pistons going down by 22 to the tanking Grizzlies, and then riding Andre Drummond to a mammoth comeback win to keep control of their destiny. Had Detroit lost that game, the Hornets could have clinched the final Eastern playoff spot with a Wednesday win over Orlando. Instead, the Pistons can claim the berth with a Wednesday win over the tanking Knicks or a Charlotte loss. Both of those games are schedule for 8 ET. How great would it be if the Pistons spotted their opponent 20 or more points again?
Miami fans chanted “Paul Pierce sucks!” at the end of the Heat’s game. Incredible.
Paul Flannery’s awards ballot has Giannis Antetokounmpo No. 1 for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
Antetokounmpo’s obsessive daily routine.
I wrote about how draft lottery reform worked ... for now.
Michael Pina on the eternal importance of Kyle Lowry.
Be excellent to each other.