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This Move Raises Eyebrows --and Some Key Questions

March 23, 1994|BILL DWYRE | TIMES SPORTS EDITOR

Once again, there will be a frenzied news conference at the Forum, and once again, the main man will be Earvin (Magic) Johnson.

When the cameras start whirring and the notepads start filling up today at 11 a.m., there will be much excitement. One of the greatest stars of the game of professional basketball will be back under the bright lights, although they will be shining on him along the sidelines this time.

And, as always with Johnson--whose last few years in the limelight have included announcements that he contracted the AIDS virus, announcements that he would retire, then unretire, then retire again--there will be lots of questions.

Such as:

--Why is he taking over now? Was it a matter of owner Jerry Buss telling Johnson long ago that when he was ready, simply speak up? Did Magic speak up?

--Is this timed so that (1) he can take over with the Lakers on a little bit of a winning roll but (2) also at a time when the playoffs are almost certainly no issue and Magic can learn for a couple of months without any pressure to win?

--Why would the Lakers sign Randy Pfund to a contract extension through the 1995-96 season as recently as two weeks ago and then bring Johnson aboard? Is that simply Buss, being loyal to an employee--Pfund--whom he has said he wants to keep around in some capacity?

--Is this the Lakers' answer to the need for some star quality to fill the frequently empty seats at the Forum this year? Does this mean that, because there is no way to get a real star player in the near future for Jack Nicholson to watch, the Lakers sent for a star coach? Or should that read: went for a star player as their coach?

--What about Magic's health? And what about the things he said after his last retirement about getting worn down by questions about his health at every stop on the NBA schedule?

--And, perhaps the biggest question of all: Can he merely sit there and watch, as his youngsters bumble and stumble and do all the things wrong that he wants done right, and not be compelled to put on a uniform again and fix things right out on the court, rather than from the sidelines?

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