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Magic makes it his business

November 06, 2008|Broderick Turner and Lisa Dillman | Turner and Dillman are Times staff writers.

When Magic Johnson spoke Wednesday about the Lakers and what confronts them this season, his voice was serious about how it has to be all about "business."

Johnson had come to talk at halftime of the Lakers-Clippers game about how he and his wife, Cookie, cried when hearing that Barack Obama had become the president-elect Tuesday night and would become the first African American to hold the highest office in the United States.

Johnson spoke about how Obama was competitive from playing basketball and how he has that fire that burns deep inside.

In Johnson's eyes, the Lakers should have that same zest after losing to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

He recalled how the Lakers had the better team, but still lost to the Celtics in the 1984 Finals. He recalled how the Lakers came back the next year and beat the Celtics for the championship.

Johnson's team was on a mission in 1985, and that's what he wants to see from this talented squad.

"They have to remember that this is a business year, though," Johnson said.

"One thing that we always did is we always understood that it was a business year. . . . Like when the Celtics beat us in '84, we came back and made it a business year.

"Anything and everybody in front of us, we were going to destroy and we were going to get back to that Finals. So they've got to do the same thing. Everybody in front of them, they have to take them out and get back to that Finals to see if they can't win it all. So hopefully they'll be in that mind-set, and it looks like they have started that."

Magic on Barack

Johnson said he never thought he'd see an African American become president.

"Even when he was running, I had doubts that America was ready to vote for him and for an African American going to the Oval Office," Johnson said.

Johnson, who said he's not planning on running for office, said he would work in the private sector for Obama.

"You think about all the things that have happened to this country under President Bush, people want change," Johnson said. "Barack, he comes and he makes these incredible speeches and makes you want to be better. He's a motivator. He's a guy that has a plan. He's so disciplined, so you know he's going to stick to that plan. I feel it's going to work too."

More Obama

Even with the polls predicting an Obama victory, the Clippers' Baron Davis was still anxious early Tuesday afternoon after practice. He even put a number on it, saying he was "20% nervous."

Davis spoke at an Obama event at UCLA before the regular season, and Clippers swingman Ricky Davis met Obama at a fundraiser and did some campaigning for him last season in Florida when he played for the Miami Heat.

"He definitely talks about ball," Ricky Davis said. "He asked me what it felt like playing in the NBA."

Ricky Davis said he TiVo'd the election coverage.

"It's pretty much the first time I've seen New York look like New Year's for an election," he said. "It's great. Hopefully, we can get it changed around and have a new look on the world."

Time management

The Clippers' 0-5 start sparked a search through the record book for other similar rocky openings.

They opened 1-6 in the 1999-2000 season, which came after the memorable 0-17 start in the lockout-shortened season of 1998-99. A moment or two for poor Chris Ford . . .

Back to the present.

"We want to win. A win is more important," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said before the game. "I'd take not playing better and winning right now, for sure.

"The first thing is we've run out of gas; that's part of it. I've got to try to recognize that and try and figure a way around it. Shorter stints, maybe minute-wise."

This early Clippers season has been plagued by second-half collapses. Apparently, the spirit is willing but the body isn't, in many cases.

"You can't trust players," Dunleavy said, smiling. "If you ask a guy: 'How do you feel?' 'I feel great.' And next thing you know, you just drop off a cliff. The meaning, the intention is good. They just don't know themselves. You're hoping for the truth. Let me know when you're ready to go back in.

"It's always been that way for some guys. You've just got to know your guys."


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