Black Monday in NFL:

Ball Don't Lie

Magic Johnson calls off his needless, one-sided war with words with Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Magic Johnson and Jay Leno talk about what it was like to peak in 1987 (Getty Images)

With his Los Angeles Dodgers in wintertime hibernation and his gig with ESPN gone for this season at least, Magic Johnson has had plenty of time to rant and rave about the team he won five championships with in the 1980s. In interviews with the Los Angeles Times and on Jay Leno’s chat show, Johnson railed against both the ego of current Los Angeles Lakers executive vice president (yeah right) of player personnel Jim Buss, and the 2012 hiring of Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, a man that Johnson criticizes for his seeming indifference to defense.

The takes came off as a little insensitive in light of a rough year for the Lakers, a team that has been beset by a series of significant injuries as they’ve struggle to a 16-30 record, second to last in the Western conference. Amid much criticism for his heavy handed and resolution-less takes (outside of, “hire Phil Jackson”), Johnson hopped on Twitter on Thursday night to offer up a truce in a war of words that nobody asked for:

Magic can be notoriously tone-deaf in instances like these, deciding to destroy Mike D’Antoni both in the Los Angeles Times and on Jay Leno’s (weirdly) nationally broadcast show, but only announcing his intentions to re-support the team and D’Antoni through his (admittedly large) Twitter following. This whole mess has been sad and, well, rather Laker-like. “Laker-like” as relative to the two and a half years since Phil Jackson left the team in the spring of 2011.

The team has been a bloated mess since then, for various reasons, but Mike D’Antoni didn’t need Magic Johnson to turn him into a sympathetic figure. D’Antoni has played most of the year without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, and even without reserve guards Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar at times. The offseason addition of Chris Kaman hasn’t panned out and Pau Gasol is playing below All-Star level again – and one can either choose to blame player or coach in this instance – but by and large D’Antoni has had a shell of a team to work with.

The Lakers have the second-worst record in the Western Conference, mainly because the team they’ve had to field this year is the second-worst in the West. This has nothing to do with the tired tripe about how Mike D’Antoni doesn’t coach defense.

(Even if he had the Knicks as a top ten defense when he stepped down from the team in 2012, and even though he led a step-slow Phoenix squad to impressive mediocre marks defensively in 2005-06.)

This is for the best, though we can’t understand why Magic would wait until now to keep quiet about D’Antoni, and not before gathering up his best material on the Lakers coach while a washed-up duplicitous hack like Jay Leno cackles away as Buck piles on. It’s absolutely fine to criticize all manner of Laker decisions, up to and including the D’Antoni hire, in the years since Phil Jackson left.

To do it now? With no D’Antoni firing imminent? With young players and overlooked vets working their tails off so as not to provide the Staples Center with one blowout loss after another? With Kobe and Nash sweating away during rehabilitation?

Those were low blows, Magic. It’s good that you’re finally punched out.

(Hat-tip: USA Today.)

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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