Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka spend time with Lakers players

Lakers center Ivica Zubac, pulling down a rebound over Hornets center Cody Zeller during a game on Feb. 28, will be under the watchful eye of management as he works on his game this summer.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As soon as he finished addressing the media after Thursday’s practice in El Segundo, Lakers Coach Luke Walton strolled over to the side of the court where Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and Jordan Clarkson had gathered.

“Earv!” Walton said, greeting the Lakers president of basketball operations.

Johnson and Pelinka watched Thursday’s practice, then spent time with the team’s players afterward. Pelinka addressed the team as a whole on Sunday before the Lakers played the Philadelphia 76ers, but planned then to spend more personal time with each player.

They talked with Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram together. They spoke with Clarkson, in part about how he can better communicate with his teammates.

“I’ve always been not the most talkative guy, but that’s what I was just talking about with them,” Clarkson said. “Being able to get that with my teammates, being able to talk to them, communicate with them, see what’s going on. … It’s really cool. It’s good for us, being able to talk to them, pick their brains as well. Just having that level of just that open-door presence.”


Pelinka and Johnson told rookie center Ivica Zubac they’d be watching him this summer.

“I gotta work hard this summer because this summer is very important for me,” Zubac said of their message. “Now everybody knows me. I gotta be better than this season.”

Pelinka and Johnson also met individually with David Nwaba, Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng and Tarik Black.

Then Pelinka and Johnson walked across the court to where Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell had been chatting with associate head coach Brian Shaw. With Pelinka to his right and Johnson to his left, Russell was the last player on the court.

Up and down for Zu

After becoming the first teenager in franchise history to have a double-double with at least 25 points Monday in a 129-101 loss to the Denver Nuggets, Zubac came back down to earth a bit.

Zubac picked up three fouls in the first half of Wednesday’s 139-100 loss to the Houston Rockets and played only 10 minutes 34 seconds.

“It was a challenge to stay out of foul trouble,” Zubac said. “At the end I didn’t make it. I think some of the calls, I don’t know if they were fouls. I didn’t really have the chance to showcase my skills.”

Zubac is learning how to not let his foul situation affect the rest of his game.

Walton allows Zubac more leeway than he might for other players in his attempts to block shots. But he’d like to see Zubac’s approach alter a little bit.


“On a lot of that stuff we’ve gotta just go up vertical, two hands in the air, and even if he doesn’t get that block, he’s a big body,” Walton said. “Make the guards finish over him. But he loves to kind of reach down and try to get those blocks and that’s where referees call fouls.”

Cooling-off period

Wednesday night’s 39-point loss to the Rockets had Walton fuming.

But after he watched the film and had his morning coffee, he cooled off a bit.

“I was pleased when I watched the tape,” Walton said. “The fourth quarter was taking away from a lot of good stuff we did earlier in the game. There’s some really nice clips that we got to show the guys.”

The Lakers gave up 46 points in the fourth quarter, after trailing by only eight late in the third quarter. That’s not to say the film was all good, though.

“It’s things that are easily correctable, at this point in the season I don’t think should be happening anymore,” Walton said. “Five or six transition clips that we showed where they literally just grabbed the ball and three of our guys didn’t get back on defense and they threw it ahead for layups. There’s no excuse for that. That shouldn’t be happening still. There were three or four free-throw box outs that we’ve literally been talking about all season long.”



When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. PST.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 20-48, Bucks 33-34.

Record vs. Bucks: 1-0.

Update: Despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 41 points, the Lakers topped the Bucks at the end of their Grammy trip in February. But the Bucks have been playing well lately and recently beat the Clippers.


Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli