Jerry West is a Los Angeles Lakers legend.
He’s also a competitor at his core and apparently not above laughing at his former team when he believes he got the better end of a deal.
Now a front-office consultant with the Los Angeles Clippers, West was part of the process that saw the Lakers trade center Ivica Zubac to their crosstown rivals at the NBA trade deadline.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported on Friday that it was the Lakers who reached out about dealing Zubac instead of the other way around and that West couldn’t believe the offer.
Report: West laughed ‘at the Lakers’ expense’
From the report:
“Shortly after the trade deadline, Clippers consultant Jerry West — who spent more than 40 years with the Lakers as a player, coach and executive — got together for dinner with old friends who also had former Laker ties, sources said. He couldn't believe how Zubac fell into his lap. The Clippers, sources said, never even called the Lakers to inquire about Zubac. The Lakers made the offer and the Clippers gladly accepted.
“Sources said those at the dinner table shared a hearty laugh at the Lakers' expense.”
The Zubac deal
The Lakers sent Zubac along with Michael Beasley to the Clippers in exchange for Mike Muscala in the Feb. 7 deal.
Until this season, Zubac, a 21-year-old center, had seen limited playing time since the Lakers drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NBA draft. He proved to be a valuable contributor for the Lakers this season, averaging 8.5 points, and 4.9 rebounds in 15.6 minutes per game.
He was an effective spot starter in 12 games and showed promise of developing into a valuable NBA role player.
Since joining the Clippers, Zubac has started all 20 games, averaging 9 points and 7.8 rebounds in 19.6 minutes per game. He’s under contract through the 2019-2020 season and will carry a $1.9 million salary cap hit.
Lakers a disaster after deadline
Muscala, meanwhile, has averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in 9.3 minutes per game for the Lakers. Some nights he doesn’t see the floor. Touted as a 3-point shooter to address the Lakers’ shooting woes, Muscala has hit 20.8 percent of his shots from distance since joining the Lakers.
He arrived with an expiring contract, which is the biggest appeal to the Lakers as they place their hopes on the offseason free agency and trade market. But there’s no getting around that the Lakers shipped a talented young player on a cheap deal for little to nothing in return.
Since the trade deadline, the Clippers have remained squarely in the Western Conference playoff race and currently sit in sixth place in the conference standings. The Lakers have been in a tailspin and will look to the draft lottery as the prize for LeBron James’ first season in Los Angeles.
West won the deal
Considering all of the above, it seems West was right to laugh.
A 14-time All-Star as a player with the Lakers and the architect of both the 1980s Showtime Lakers and the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant era of the 2000s as general manager, West’s Lakers ties and bonafides run deep.
He’d probably prefer that it not go public that he had a chuckle at Magic Johnson’s expense.
But if it means he got the best of a trade, he’ll deal with it.
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