EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — If misery has to have company, Magic Johnson is glad to see the Boston Celtics matching the Lakers loss for loss. The Celtics are 11-6, the Lakers 10-5.
"It's really funny, both of us not playing well at the same time," Johnson said. "I think both teams have to realize something: The league has changed (for the stronger).
"Second of all, they have injuries like we have.
"Both teams have got to have a big win, and for one team, that big win will probably be Friday night."
That's when the Lakers and Celtics rendezvous in Boston.
"That's going to put somebody over the hump," Johnson said. "We want this (losing) to be over, but we can't look forward to that game. We've got to look toward New Jersey."
Tonight, the Lakers will play the Nets, who are 2-12 and have lost their last eight games.
The Celtics have experienced most of their problems on the road, where they have lost five times by a total of 104 points, an average of 20.8 points a game.
Peter May of the Hartford Courant noted that during the Clippers' worst streak last season--when they lost six straight in February and March--the five worst losses were by an average of 21.6 points. When did you ever think you'd see the Clippers being compared to the Celtics?
Since returning home from a West Coast trip last February, the Celtics have gone 8-21 on the road, including playoff games.
Said Larry Bird: "We used to have a lot of pride when we played on the road. We used to enjoy it. We always had six, seven, eight guys who came to play and talk a lot of junk. Now the only time we talk is if they (opponents) initiate it."
The shoe fits (again): Magic Johnson has apparently reached an agreement with Converse, the shoe company that filed suit against him last Friday after the Laker guard asked for a termination of his shoe contract, which still had seven years to run.
A spokesman for Converse said that after a meeting with Johnson's attorney, John Argue, and his marketing representative, Lon Rosen, in Florida Sunday, there was an "agreement in principle to a resolution of issues."
Translation: Contracts aren't that easily broken, Johnson's people backed off, and Converse probably salved any hard feelings by kicking in a few extra bucks.
How about those Trail Blazers?: The key to Portland's leading the Pacific Division for the first time since January, 1984, has been the play of forwards Clyde Drexler and Jerome Kersey. The Trail Blazers may still be a little soft up front with Steve Johnson at center, but Drexler has been playing at an All-Star level.
"He's been spectacular," said teammate Maurice Lucas. "When Kiki (Vandeweghe) got hurt, he just came in and took over. It's unique to me to see such a small guy make such a contribution and do such damage."
With Kersey's emergence during Vandeweghe's absence, the Trail Blazers are a much stronger team, Lucas said. "Not only defensively, because Kiki is also trying to play defense a lot better. Jerome gives us just a totally different dimension--flying, boarding and jumping.
"If one (opponent) has to guard first Kiki, them Jerome, it's going to be a handful."
The Lakers' starting lineup on Oct. 18, 1977, the last time Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored fewer than 10 points until last Friday: Kermit Washington and Jamaal Wilkes, forwards; Norm Nixon and Earl Tatum, guards; and Abdul-Jabbar, center. When Abdul-Jabbar was ejected after punching Kent Benson--he also broke his hand--James Edwards finished the game at center. Milwaukee won, 117-112.
When Don Nelson left the Milwaukee Bucks to become a part owner and executive vice president with the Golden State Warriors, the Bucks stipulated that he could not coach for two seasons.
Still, it can't be all that comfortable for Warrior Coach George Karl to have Nelson in the background, what with the Warriors off to their worst start since moving to the Bay Area.
"I want to be careful with what I say because I'm too honest," Nelson told Sam Goldaper of the New York Times. "But I don't see enthusiasm, and we should be having it, with or without injuries. Whoever sees this team notices it, but people are afraid to say it. I'm not.
"I was very willing to sit back and do nothing and let this team grow on last season's success, but I don't see any growth. It's apparent . . . that we're growing the other way."
Boola-boola: Cleveland rookie Chris Dudley, a 6-11 center, is the third Yale man to play in the National Basketball Assn. The others were Butch Graves and Tony Lavelli. Graves played four games for the Cavaliers in the 1984-85 season; Lavelli with the Celtics and Knicks in the late '40s and early '50s.
Dudley, who had a double major in economics and political science, is the first fourth-rounder to make the Cavaliers since Eric Fernsten in 1974.
Said Cleveland center Brad Daugherty: "Don't let that Yale stuff fool you. Chris doesn't play like an Ivy Leaguer. He's a tough kid."