Magic Johnson confirms LeBron James helped orchestrate Rondo, McGee, Stephenson deals

Eyebrows were raised at the transactions the Los Angeles Lakers made after agreeing to sign LeBron James.

A cast of some of the NBA’s most erratic players and characters were slated to join James in L.A., led by Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo.

While Rondo has leadership pedigree on a championship team, it’s still a group collectively better known for blooper reels than contributions to the game.

Surely the Lakers could come up with a better plan to build around James. But there’s no way they made those moves without LeBron’s blessing, right?

Magic confirms LeBron influenced roster moves

Apparently they didn’t. While many speculated that James had something to do with the new Lakers blueprint, team president of basketball operations Magic Johnson confirmed as much on Tuesday while speaking with L.A. SportsNet’s Mike Bresnahan.

“LeBron’s won championships, been to eight straight Finals,” Johnson told Bresnahan. “You think (general manager) Rob (Pelinka) and I are not going to ask him? No, we’re going to definitely ask him his opinion because he knows those players better than us.”

So now the signings makes sense. Kind of.

29 PHOTOS
LeBron James through the years
See Gallery
LeBron James through the years
File photo of high school basketball star LeBron James getting set for a foul shot during the annual Jordan Capital Classic high school all-star game in Washington, April 17, 2003. James will hold a press conference at his high shool in Akron, Ohio April 25, 2003, where he is expected to state his intentions concerning the upcoming NBA draft. James is expected to be the number one pick should he make himself available for the draft. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn-Files GMH/HB
Lebron James announces his entrance into the NBA draft, during a press conference at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, April 25, 2003. The six-foot-eight James, 18, is expected by many to be the number one selection in the draft on June 26. REUTERS/Jason Cohn JC/HB
LeBron James (R) shakes hands with National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden in New York, June 26, 2003. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton PM
Cleveland Cavaliers first draft pick LeBron James speaks with reporters following a picture session at Gund Arena, in Cleveland, October 2, 2003. REUTERS/Ron Kuntz RK/ME
Cleveland Cavalier rookie forward LeBron James (23) shoots over New Orleans Hornets defenders Baron Davis (1) and David Wesley (4), in the fourth period of NBA action in Cleveland, Ohio, December 23, 2003. James 22 points was the high scorer for the Cavaliers who defeated the Hornets 97-86. REUTERS/Marc Serota MS
Paul Pierce (R) of the Boston Celtics and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers chat while the scoreboard is fixed during the fourth quarter of their game at Gund Arena, February 9, 2004. The Cavaliers won, 97-89. REUTERS/Ron Kuntz RK
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (C) gets a layup as Seattle Supersonics forward Rashad Lewis (L) and Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki look on, during the first half of the 54th NBA All-Star Game in Denver, February 20, 2005. REUTERS/John Gress JM
Eastern Conference forward LeBron James holds the Most Valuable Player trophy at the 55th NBA All-Star Game in Houston, Texas February 19, 2006. The East defeated the Western Conference 122-120. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James questions a call during their NBA playoff game against the Washington Wizards in Washington May 5, 2006 Cleveland defeated Washington, 114-113, to advance in the NBA playoffs. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Forward LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, works on his jump shot at morning practice during the first day of training camp for the USA men's basketball team in Las Vegas July 19, 2006. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) shoots over New York Knicks forward Quentin Richardson (L) and guard Stephon Marbury (R) in the fourth quarter of their NBA basketball game in New York's Madison Square Garden, November 13, 2006. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James is seen on the court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, California, February 15, 2007. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James goes through his pregame powder ritual prior to the start of Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first round NBA playoff basketball game in Cleveland, Ohio April 25, 2007. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James answers media questions before practice for their NBA Finals basketball series against the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio, Texas, June 8, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (L) celebrates after dunking against the New Orleans Hornets David West during the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans, Louisiana February 17, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (L) is guarded by Chicago Bulls Thabo Sefolosha (R) during the first quarter of their NBA basketball game in Cleveland, April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James drives to the basket during the third quarter of their NBA basketball game in Cleveland January 9, 2009. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James sits with his girlfriend Savana Brinson and son Bryce Maximus during the Rookie Challenge at the NBA All-Star basketball weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, February 13, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James speaks after being named the NBA Most Valuable Player during a ceremony at his alma mater St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio May 4, 2009. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James celebrates after Mario Chalmers scored a three pointer against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, December 25, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James (R) stands with Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade during Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James watches a shot against the Dallas Mavericks through the net during the second half in Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Miami, June 2, 2011. REUTERS/David J. Phillip/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James dunks against the Washington Wizards in the first half of their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida December 15, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James speaks at a press conference after his team defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in Miami, Florida June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Dec 19, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) makes a pass against the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James wears an " I Can't Breathe" t-shirt during warm ups prior to the game against the Brooklyn Nets in Brooklyn, New York, December 8, 2014. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
June 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James speaks to media following the 104-91 loss against the Golden State Warriors in game five of the NBA Finals. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after beating the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 21: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers pauses on the court during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at Quicken Loans Arena on January 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Spurs defeated the Cavaliers 118-115. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Lakers agreeing to bring in the teammates that James wants as part of the transaction to attract the world’s best player makes perfect sense. James looking to that motley crew still begs an explanation.

LeBron’s spotty record of team building

For all of James’ well-deserved praise as a player and businessman, LeBron the pseudo-general manager has a spotty track record. Sure, he helped facilitate the core of the Miami Heat roster with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that won two championships.

He also pressured the Cleveland Cavaliers to give Tristan Thompson a five-year, $82 million deal and strong-armed the team into re-upping with J.R. Smith, a player represented by his own agent and friend Rich Paul.

“I hate coming into another season — two years in a row — with one of my big guns not here,” James said of Smith in 2016 while he was in a contract stalemate with the Cavs. “So, for a leader of a team and for me personally, I just hate to deal with this s— again.”

Thompson went on to languish on the bench last season, while James didn’t appear to feel quite so positive about his “big gun” after Game 1 of the 2018 Finals. 

But when you have a chance to sign James, you roll with his roster suggestions if it gets him in your building. Pelinka confirmed with Bresnahan that the Lakers did just that in a plan that was hashed out for months.

Magic leaning on past lessons from playing days

Johnson, whom James has been compared to for most of his career as a player and now as a businessman, told Bresnahan that consulting James was part of a lesson he learned as a player under late former Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

“I learned from Dr. Buss that you should always include (star) players,” Johnson said. “When (former GM) Jerry West thought about bringing a player in, Dr. Buss would call me, call Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar).”

36 PHOTOS
NBA players who changed teams this offseason
See Gallery
NBA players who changed teams this offseason

DeAndre Jordan

Old team: Los Angeles Clippers

New team: Dallas Mavericks

(Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Austin Rivers

Old team: Los Angeles Clippers

New team: Washington Wizards

(Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

Marcin Gortat

Old team: Washington Wizards

New team: Los Angeles Clippers

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

LeBron James

Old team: Cleveland Cavaliers

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Omri Casspi

Old team: Golden State Warriors

New team: Memphis Grizzlies

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Trevor Ariza

Old team: Houston Rockets

New team: Phoenix Suns

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Nik Stauskas

Old team: Brooklyn Nets

New team: Portland Trail Blazers

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Lance Stephenson

Old team: Indiana Pacers

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Javale McGee

Old team: Golden State Warriors

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Doug McDermott

Old team: Dallas Mavericks

New team: Indiana Pacers

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ed Davis

Old team: Portland Trail Blazers

New team: Brooklyn Nets

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Mario Hezonja

Old team: Orlando Magic

New team: New York Knicks

(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Rajon Rondo

Old team: New Orleans Pelicans

New team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Jose Calderon

Old team: Cleveland Cavaliers

New team: Detroit Pistons

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

DeMarcus Cousins

Old team: New Orleans Pelicans

New team: Golden State Warriors

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Julius Randle

Old team: Los Angeles Lakers

New team: New Orleans Pelicans

(Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jeff Green

Old team: Cleveland Cavaliers

New team: Washington Wizards

Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Tyreke Evans

Old team: Memphis Grizzlies

New team: Indiana Pacers

Photo by Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson Chandler

Old team: Denver Nuggets

New team: Philadelphia 76ers

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dwight Howard

Old team: Charlotte Hornets

New team: Washington Wizards

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Tony Parker

Old team: San Antonio Spurs

New team: Charlotte Hornets

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Seth Curry

Old team: Dallas Mavericks

New team: Portland Trail Blazers

(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jonas Jerebko

Old team: Utah Jazz

New team: Golden State Warriors

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

Isaiah Thomas

Old team: Los Angeles Lakers

New team: Denver Nuggets

(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Jeremy Lin

Old team: Brooklyn Nets

New team: Atlanta Hawks

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

Kyle Anderson

Old team: San Antonio Spurs

New team: Memphis Grizzlies

(Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kenneth Faried

Old team: Denver Nuggets

New team: Brooklyn Nets

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Garrett Temple

Old team: Sacramento Kings

New team: Memphis Grizzlies

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ben McLemore

Old team: Memphis Grizzlies

New team: Sacramento Kings

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Demar DeRozan

Old team: Toronto Raptors

New team: San Antonio Spurs

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Jakob Poeltl

Old team: Toronto Raptors

New team: San Antonio Spurs

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Kawhi Leonard

Old team: San Antonio Spurs

New team: Toronto Raptors

(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dennis Schroder

Old team: Atlanta Hawks

New team: Oklahoma City Thunder

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Mike Muscala

Old team: Atlanta Hawks

New team: Philadelphia 76ers

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Carmelo Anthony

Old team: Oklahoma City Thunder

New team: ???

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jared Dudley

Old team: Phoenix Suns

New team: Brooklyn Nets

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Johnson is wise to carry those lessons forward and bring James into the fold. But now that James is under contract, how much say will he give James moving forward?

While Magic the player’s legacy is impervious, Magic the executive’s legacy is a clean slate. Johnson’s next wise move may be finding the ability to say to James moving forward.

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