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Anthony Davis trade saga: Magic Johnson to meet with Lakers players

Earvin “Magic” Johnson & Rob Pelinka Los Angeles Lakers Media Availability
Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, is on his way to Philadelphia to meet with players.
(Meg Oliphant / Getty Images)

Sensing that the Lakers have been weighed down by the persistent trade rumors over the last few weeks, Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, plans to meet with the team this weekend in Philadelphia, according to two people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Johnson wants to encourage the Lakers to stay the course and to focus on the task ahead with 27 regular-season games left to play, one person said.

Johnson will talk to the Lakers about the Anthony Davis trade saga that nearly pulled them under, emphasizing that the NBA is a business and that this franchise is about winning championships and doing all it can to accomplish that goal.

Johnson will listen to every player who wants to speak, hoping to have an open dialogue with his team so they can all move forward together, one person said.

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The Lakers are chasing a playoff spot despite missing All-Star forward LeBron James for 17 games during the middle of the season. The Lakers (28-27) are in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, 1½ games behind the eighth-place Clippers (30-26).

Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ivica Zubac were all involved in the Lakers’ trade talks with the New Orleans Pelicans.

But the NBA trade deadline passed and Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, Hart and Caldwell-Pope remained with the Lakers. Zubac and Michael Beasley were traded to the Clippers for forward Mike Muscala, who is a solid perimeter shooter.

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Johnson will tell the Lakers that it is their responsibility to be professional and to play their best basketball so they can make the playoffs in the uber-tough Western Conference, one person said.

The Lakers added another shooter when they acquired swingman Reggie Bullock from the Detroit Pistons for rookie Svi Mykhailiuk. Bullock is expected to be in uniform against the 76ers on Sunday.

The Lakers are also expecting to get Ball back after the All-Star break. The point guard suffered a left ankle sprain Jan. 19 against the Houston Rockets and was expected to be out four to six weeks.

Johnson will let the Lakers know how impressed he was seeing them defeat the rival Boston Celtics on Thursday night and that he wants them to take that same fight to Philadelphia when they play the 76ers in another nationally televised game, two people said. The Lakers were coming off a 42-point loss in Indiana on Tuesday.

Also, the Lakers have interest in signing forward Markieff Morris if he is healthy, according to one person. The Lakers have a roster spot available after trading Zubac and Beasley.

Morris was acquired by the Pelicans on Thursday from the Washington Wizards, but he was waived later that day. Morris, who is in the final year of a contract that pays him $8.6 million, still has to clear waivers.

Morris hasn’t played in a game since Dec. 26. He was diagnosed with transient cervical neuropraxia, a spinal injury, in January.

His timeline for recovery was six weeks.

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Morris averaged 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 34 games for the Wizards.

The Lakers will strongly consider adding him to the team for his scoring, defense and toughness if he is physically fit, one person said.

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli


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