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Former Lakers President Magic Johnson admits not re-signing Brook Lopez was a mistake

Magic Johnson, Brook Lopez, Lakers

Magic Johnson admitted he made a mistake upon letting starting center Brook Lopez walk only one season after acquiring him, according to ESPN’s Arash Markazi. Johnson traded for him as a result of a salary dump that shipped D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Lopez.

The former Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations went on ESPN’s First Take and said he was wrong for letting Lopez go, yet defended his decision to rescind Julius Randle’s rights, allowing him to become a free agent, as well as the trade that involved center Ivica Zubac.

Lopez’ non-signing was a mistake in only two ways — the money he demanded wasn’t much (signed for less with the Milwaukee Bucks), and he was a hometown kid and a favorite in the locker room.

Besides those two, Lopez’ year looks a lot better than it could have been for the Lakers, given how much of a perfect fit he is in Mike Budenholzer’s system. The Bucks coach wanted a five-man floor spacer, one that could make his living relieving Giannis Antetokounmpo on the perimeter and playing defense — two aspects of Lopez’ game that fit perfectly and organically within the system.

However, the decision to not even negotiate with Randle was a critical mistake, given that Randle wanted to continue his career as a Laker and had made visible progress after each season, including jumping from a third stringer to a starter under coach Luke Walton in 2017-18.

The Zubac trade is indefensible, but Johnson went on to cheer Stephen A. Smith for reading his porous playoff stats aloud on the air (h/t Harrison Faigen of SB Nation’s Silver Screen & Roll).

The Croatian, much like many other centers, was neutralized by a small-ball Golden State Warriors rotation in the postseason, but actually put up career-high numbers of 9.4 points and 7.7 rebounds with the Clippers, starting more games under Doc Rivers (25) than he had during his two-and-a-half years with the Lakers (23).