Magic Johnson orchestrated the spectacular play of the Los Angeles Lakers during the Showtime era in the 1980s, showing off possibly the highest all-around basketball IQ the NBA has ever seen.
Johnson’s knowledge of the sport has resulted in success on and off the court. The five-time NBA champion built the foundations for the 2019-20 Lakers team that won the franchise’s 17th championship, bringing LeBron James to L.A. during his tenure as the organization’s president of basketball operations.
Only three players from that triumphant group represent the Purple and Gold during the difficult 2021-22 season. The Lakers entered the All-Star break with a 27-31 record, ranking ninth in the Western Conference.
But Johnson told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears L.A. seems to have finally cracked the code on how to unleash the potential of this season’s roster:
Who are we? What’s our DNA? We have to figure that out. Once we figure out who we are and what we do, we have to do [it] on a nightly basis to win, right? How do we have to play? That’s what we have to embrace and find out. Are we going to be this team that, on a nightly basis, we going to go up and down, we going to run? Are we going to be a set offense and feature LeBron and AD [Anthony Davis]?
We just have to figure out who we are. And what we really going to have to do is really buckle down on the defensive end. But I would say this: It’s been a struggle for the Lakers most of the season, and then that Golden State game [Feb. 12], I think they found something. [Wednesday] is really a key to me. Did they find something and will that translate against Utah? [Note: The Lakers beat the Jazz 106-101 Wednesday night.] I told LeBron this at the Super Bowl. I said, ‘Man, I think if you guys play like that …’ I said, ‘You should have won the game [vs. Golden State], up six, two minutes to go.’
Johnson recalled his 1990-91 Lakers team, which struggled to come together for the majority of the regular season as Mike Dunleavy took over from Pat Riley a year after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired. But the Purple and Gold figured out the way to utilize their talent in the last month of that campaign and then reached the 1991 NBA Finals.
Johnson thinks the current Lakers team can follow a similar path:
This team, we know they got talent. Now if they can just find their game, I tell you, they’re going to pose a lot of problems for teams. They just got to find it. They just got to find their game. Also, Russell [Westbrook], just be comfortable with how you have to play now. You can’t worry about how you played before, because that doesn’t matter. It’s about how can I help this team win and what do I have to do to help this team win.
The Lakers will resume their season on Friday, Feb. 25, in a game against the L.A. Clippers. However, they will have to deal without Anthony Davis for at least three weeks, who suffered a mid-foot sprain in the 106-101 win over the Utah Jazz.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss still seeks advice from Johnson on roster decisions
Although Johnson left the Lakers’ front office in an awkward fashion in April 2019, he remains a friend of L.A.’s owner Jeanie Buss. In fact, Buss recently said she still seeks the three-time NBA MVP’s advice before she makes key decisions regarding the team’s present and future.
Buss revealed she reached out to Johnson in December, asking for his opinion on the cause of the Lakers’ struggles in 2021-22.
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