Magic Johnson, Losing, And A Fractured Lakers Organization

Byron Scott and Magic Johnson

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Being a hypocrite doesn’t make you wrong. It just makes you a hypocrite.

With that in mind, I turn to recent comments from Magic Johnson during an event in New York. Magic is a figure synonymous with winning, but while entertaining this Steiner Sports audience, the Point God didn’t just make a statement wildly counter to his image. He likely committed blasphemy in the eyes of many Laker fans:

“I hope the Lakers lose every game,” Johnson told reporters. “Because if you’re going to lose, lose. And I’m serious.”

Johnson thinks that the Lakers could turn around their fortunes quickly with the right moves in the offseason — and another high lottery pick.

“The Lakers are in a good space, too, next summer if they can sign or trade for a talented guy,” he said. “I’d rather be all the way bad than be in the middle.”

To be clear, Magic is absolutely right, and anybody willing to be honest about where the Lakers currently stand, how the NBA works and what rebuilding requires knows he’s right. The Lakers are currently 6-16, with zero chance of making the playoffs in a brutal Western Conference. 22 games into the season, they’re already too far gone — not to mention too untalented — for the postseason to represent even the faintest of pipe dreams. No matter what Kobe Bryant, Byron Scott, Nick Young or anybody else peddling hope and determination tries to sell you, it’s a wrap. (Plus, let’s be honest. If the Lakers somehow managed to claw their way to an improbable eight-seed, all that’s waiting on the horizon is a ferocious beatdown at the hands of Golden State, Memphis, San Antonio, or the like. Cheap thrills aside, what’s the point?)

Chris Paul Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers bcTKCuqhWb1xThe Lakers also have precious few draft picks or tradable assets on hand, since they were all moved over the last few years in a wholly-justifiable-but-ultimately-fruitless attempt to win one last title while Dr. Jerry Buss was still alive. Picks (along with Andrew Bynum) were used to bring in Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and even Ramon Sessions. Picks were used to make absorbing Derek Fisher and Luke Walton a worthwhile cost of doing business. Again, I don’t fault the Lakers for making these moves, and a few wouldn’t have even been necessary had the league not vetoed the Chris Paul deal (#BasketballReasons, #NeverForget). But that’s nonetheless where things stand right now. And because of this, the Lakers need a lottery pick far more than scattered wins that represent little more than empty calories.

I’m not suggesting the Lakers “tank,” a phrase tossed around far too liberally — and inaccurately — these days.

They’re losing just fine while actually trying to win, thank you very much. But if the goal of winning is currently elevated ahead of Jordan Clarkson’s development, that needs to change pretty soon. And if guys like Jordan Hill or Jeremy Lin eventually get dealt, it better be for young players or flippable assets rather than some veteran who “knows how to play the game.” For the Lakers, it’s not necessarily about hunting losses, but rather avoiding steps centered around short-term gains.


Kobe Bryant, Nick Young React To Magic Johnson’s Tanking Comments

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