By now, it’s been proven that Magic Johnson is just about as duplicitous as it gets when it comes to his on-record opinion about the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson rode former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni for two years without showing a scintilla of class, chiming in on TV and on Twitter any time the lottery-bound Lakers took another step backward in the won/loss column.
This year’s Lakers model, with Magic’s friend and former teammate Byron Scott at the helm, is far worse than D’Antoni’s lacking teams. Johnson, however, seems to have no problem with as much. You’ll recall:
''I hope the Lakers lose every game,'' the former Lakers point guard said. ''Because if you're going to lose, lose. And I'm serious. If you're going to lose, you've got to lose, because you can't be in the middle of the pack. You either have to be great, or you've got to be bad to get a good pick.''
At Lakers practice on Wednesday, however, and in the wake of the team’s sixth win in 22 tries against the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers wanted nothing to do with Magic’s take on tanking. Here’s Nick Young, from the Los Angeles Times:
"It's too early to do that right now. I'm going to have to tell Magic to stay at Dodger Stadium for a while," Young said. "He's going to bring that smile around here. I'll do all the smiling right now.
"I'm [probably] telling Magic, 'You've got to stick with us.' Magic always has some bold comments. I remember last year he said some crazy things. I'd just tell him, 'Chill out for a minute' or I'd have to knock him out once or twice."
Robert Sacre exclaimed in the locker room "Less lottery balls!" and added that "no one wants to hear" talk about tanking.
Kobe Bryant took a more measured approach in his response, pointing out that Johnson’s history as an owner and executive would encourage him to take more of a long term-leaning take on things. That would be a sensible response had Johnson not whined and moaned about D’Antoni and Lakers losses at every given opportunity last season – with the Lakers owning an eventual lottery pick and Bryant out for the season with a broken leg, and nothing to gain by winning.
Players, of course, want to win. They sure wouldn’t mind eventually playing with the NBA’s Next Great Star, and sometimes the way to get that star is to blow off an entire season and grab a high draft pick, but competitors still have to wade their way through nearly six months of games before they can have a chance in the lottery. Michael Carter-Williams recently pointed out as much in the hours before his notorious Philadelphia 76ers lost by 53 points, and it makes complete and total sense that the Lakers players would dismiss even a Lakers legend like Magic Johnson.
It also makes complete and total sense as to why Magic Johnson is acting like a complete and total hypocrite, here.
Even with Kobe Bryant healthy and leading the NBA in scoring, the Lakers are far worse this season under Byron Scott’s guidance. For all the hand-wringing about Mike D’Antoni’s supposed indifference to team defense, Scott’s Lakers are defending at a historically-poor rate, a clear carryover from Scott’s time in Cleveland, when he also ran a historically-low defensive squad (three bottom-four defensive ratings in consecutive years).
The Lakers do have further incentive to lose this season, because unlike last year the team’s draft pick goes to Phoenix if it falls out of the top five, and losing more often ensures better lottery chances. Still, the idea that terrible defense and heaps of losses are just fine with Magic because his buddy Scott is in charge is sickening. D’Antoni did not do a good job in Los Angeles, but at least he can say that his teams defended better and won more often.
This is where Magic is at now, sadly. Even Nick Young is making more sense than him.
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