Have you ever wanted to fire one of your siblings? I'm not sure how Jeanie Buss was able to fire brother Jim this week - and GM Mitch Kupchak -- from his role in running the Lakers since both kids are owners of the team, but the move was clearly overdue. Jeanie didn't waste any time in installing Magic Johnson as the team president, a move we all saw coming a couple of weeks ago when Magic was hired as a consultant. You don't bring aboard someone like Magic and not give him all the power. It's a no-lose move for Jeanie Buss because Magic is so popular. Will Magic be a good executive? That's impossible to say, but I would imagine players would want to go play for him. Jerry West was a great player and perhaps a better executive. Larry Bird has been a good but not great executive. Michael Jordan was not a good executive.
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Magic has hired Kobe Bryant's former agent Rob Pelinka as his GM. James Harden was among Pelinka's current clients, but he has to divest himself of that job completely. Pelinka, who was a reserve on the Michigan Fab Five teams, also has no experience when it comes to running a team. The Lakers didn't waste any time in starting over as they traded leading scorer Lou Williams to Houston. That deal does two things to benefit L.A.: gets the Lakers a first-round pick this summer from Houston and helps assure the Lakers finish with one of the three-worst records in the NBA and a better chance at keeping their first-round pick. If it's outside the Top 3, the 76ers get it. If it's possible for Magic to help this team tank without being totally obvious the rest of the way, it's going to happen.
Wizards at 76ers (+8, 216.5)
Washington enters the second half on a four-game winning streak and holding down third in the East. The Wizards were trying to acquire the Lakers' Williams as well but instead settled for Bojan Bogdanovic from the Nets. Solid bench upgrade. The 76ers had the best ATS record in the league in the first half despite the fifth-worst record. As usual for this team, it's a question of when Joel Embiid will play after missing the past 11 games with knee issues. He won't here. Might as well shut him down.The Sixers also dealt Nerlens Noel on Thursday. Washington and Philadelphia have split two meetings, each winning at home.
Key trends: The home team is 7-3 against the spread in the past 10 meetings. The "over/under" is 12-3 in the 76ers' past 15 overall.
Early lean: Wizards and over.
Grizzlies at Pacers (+1, 206.5)
Indiana enters the break on a six-game skid but still sixth in the East. The Pacers were one of those teams considered buyers and sellers ahead of the deadline. They were hoping to buy but reportedly at least would have considered a mega-offer for Paul George. The Pacers did neither. Memphis sits sixth in the West and has won seven of 10. It's the first meeting between Memphis and Indiana. The Grizzlies swept the regular-season series last season for the second straight year.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 1-5 ATS in their past six vs. the East. The under is 6-2 in the past eight meetings.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Celtics at Raptors (-2.5, 216)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. This will be the Raptors debut of Serge Ibaka. He was acquired a few days before the break but wasn't able to get in a game. He fills the only big weakness Toronto had. The Celtics, who were in on Jimmy Butler and George but did nothing, are just three games back of Cleveland for the East lead. Toronto leads the season series 2-1 and has won the past three home meetings. The Raptors are unlikely to catch the Celtics in the Atlantic Division and for the East's No. 2 seed, but winning the season series at least gives the Dinos the tiebreaker.
Key trends: The Celtics are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Early lean: Raptors and under.
Suns at Bulls ( -7, 215.5)
Phoenix is last in the West but likely to see the Lakers sink to that spot eventually now. The Suns reportedly were interested in DeMarcus Cousins but wouldn't give up what the Kings wanted. The Bulls had long been liked to Cousins but have nothing of value other than Butler, and that was a non-starter. Chicago sent out Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson to Oklahoma City for little in return Thursday. Phoenix beat Chicago 115-97 on Feb. 10. Devin Booker (27) and Eric Bledsoe (23) combined for 50 points to outduel Chicago's tandem of Butler (20) and Dwyane Wade (18).
Key trends: The road team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 7-2 in the Bulls' past nine at home.
Early lean: Suns and over.
Jazz at Bucks (+2, 200.5)
Utah comes out of the break at fifth in the West, while Milwaukee is sitting ninth in the East. Two very similar small-market teams where most free agents wouldn't be caught dead but with plenty of interesting young talent already on hand. Utah beat Milwaukee 104-88 on Feb. 1, the Jazz's 15 th straight home victory in the series. Rudy Gobert had 26 points and 15 rebounds. A win here would mark the third consecutive year the Jazz have swept the season series against the Bucks.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-0 in the previous four.
Early lean: Totally love the under. Go Jazz.
Lakers at Thunder (-10.5, 221)
I wonder if Jeanie Buss' final straw in firing her brother and Kupchak was those two turning down a trade built around Brandon Ingram to get Cousins. I think you make that deal. Meanwhile, the top individual story line of the second half begins here as Russell Westbrook continues his quest to average a triple-double. All the sportsbooks have a prop on that. BetOnline has yes and no at -115. I think he'll do it. Westbrook has 27 of them this season, 14 shy of tying Oscar Robertson's single-season record. The Lakers have lost 10 straight to the Thunder and nine in a row in OKC. As noted above, the Thunder got Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson from Chicago on Thursday. Will all the paperwork/physicals be done for them to play here?
Key trends: The Lakers are 0-7 ATS in their past seven in OKC. The over is 6-1 in the Thunder's past seven at home.
Early lean: Thunder and over.
Mavericks at Timberwolves (-3.5, 203)
Two teams out of the playoff chase and unlikely to get into it. The Wolves made some noise about trading Ricky Rubio (didn't), but they were toast when Zach LaVine suffered a season-ending injury. Dallas acquired Nerlens Noel from Philadelphia. Dallas and Minnesota have split two meetings this year. The Jan. 9 101-92 win ended the Wolves' seven-game slide vs. Dallas and was their first Target Center victory over the Mavericks since Nov. 8, 2013.
Key trends: The Mavs are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 6-1-1 in the previous eight.
Early lean: Wolves and under.
Heat at Hawks (-3.5, 207)
Miami was one of the best ATS teams in the first half, but that was almost totally built on the NBA's most unlikely 13-game winning streak in history. Atlanta got plenty of offers for Paul Millsap but opted to keep him even though Millsap will hit free agency. The Hawks will make the playoffs but likely lose in the first round. Atlanta is 2-1 vs. Miami this season, but the Heat won the most recent matchup 116-93 at home on Feb. 1. Hassan Whiteside is averaging 15.0 points and 18.3 rebounds vs. the Hawks.
Key trends: The Heat are 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 5-2 in the Hawks' past seven.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Nets at Nuggets (-10, 230.5)
Denver was in Sacramento on Thursday with a handful of key injured Nuggets expected back. The longest losing streak in NBA history is 28 straight by the 76ers, but I don't put it past the sorry Nets to break that mark. They enter having lost 14 in a row and surely will not be favored again in 2017. Brooklyn was shopping Brook Lopez but found no takers for its high price. At least the team got a first-round pick from Washington for Bogdanovic. The Nets have taken the past six vs. the Nuggets. Brooklyn won 116-111 on Dec. 7.
Key trends: The Nets are 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-2 in the Nuggets' past seven in the second of a back-to-back.
Early lean: Nets and under.
Spurs at Clippers (TBA)
Second ESPN game. Los Angeles was at Golden State on Thursday with Chris Paul to potentially return from his thumb injury. That somewhat came out of nowhere as he was expected to miss another 10 days or so. San Antonio is 4-2 on its 15th annual Rodeo Road Trip where the team will travel a total of 7,378 miles and face eight different teams. At least it was broken up by the break. I expect Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to rest his guys plenty in the second half. San Antonio is basically locked into the West's No. 2 seed barring a major injury. The Spurs are 0-2 vs. the Clippers this year and have dropped their past three in L.A.
Key trends: The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five in L.A.
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