Josh Powell is congratulated by former Laker Magic Johnson, right, during… (Gus Ruelas, Associated…)
Like so many Lakers fans, Magic Johnson cringed when he heard the phrase "72 and 10."
It's not that Johnson doesn't have faith in this Lakers team, or in its ability to defend its NBA championship.
It's just that Johnson doesn't see it as a reality for the Lakers to try to match or surpass the all-time NBA regular-season record of 72-10 held by the Chicago Bulls.
In fact, after the Lakers beat the New York Knicks on Tuesday at Staples Center, Johnson was emphatic. "They can't do 72-10," said Johnson, who owns 5% of the Lakers. "They shouldn't even try 72. First, they can't accomplish it, anyway. The main thing is playing the best you can play, getting the best record [this season] so you can have home-court advantage."
The Lakers improved to 11-3 by defeating the Knicks. They took Wednesday off before going back to work today and Friday as the Lakers prepare to play the Golden State Warriors on Saturday in Oakland.
When he played, Johnson said, the team's goal was to get the best record in the West and then the best overall record. "And that's what these Lakers should stay with," Johnson said. "And, it should be, 'How can we get better? Every month we've got to get better.' "
To repeat, Johnson said, it will require a strong resolve by the Lakers. He likes their chances if they stay grounded.
"Complacency can't set in," Johnson said. "You can't worry about being in commercials and stuff that can really hurt you. They have to stay focused and then pay attention to the little details of making sure you stay together as a tight unit, making sure the media don't come in and divide nobody.
"Make sure no craziness is going on. Then everybody has to stay happy with their role. Because what kills teams trying to repeat is somebody now saying: 'Damn, I want to go from 10 points to 20.' Or, 'I want 15 shots now. I was only getting seven. How can I get 15 shots?' Those types of things, that's what kills a team."
Some of that has already surfaced with the Lakers' second unit.
It was a source of irritation for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson during Tuesday's game when his second unit of Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison began turning the ball over. The bench let a 25-point lead slip to 14 points, forcing Jackson to call a timeout to put starters Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest back into the game.
"Andrew [Bynum] and Lamar stayed out with that group, and it just didn't seem to be that kind of leadership that we needed," Jackson said.
Johnson added that all teams need someone who acts as the clubhouse enforcer. "I was the police on our team. If I heard you were at the club too much and I saw that in your play, I'm going to let you know. So who is the police on this team?
"Is that Derek [Fisher]? Who's that guy that when somebody is getting out of line or going over that line, you've got to pull them back in," Johnson said.
"If you want to repeat, that's what you have to do. It's not going to be easy, but we have the team to do it."
One diversion all athletes face is the proliferation of social media outlets -- something that didn't exist in Johnson's era. NBA players have turned to Twitter and Facebook to get their messages out.
"That's definitely more distractions," Johnson said. "And because of Twitter and that whole thing, more people want to hear from the other guys. Before it was just the stars. Now, all 15 guys [on a team] can have a voice now. That's never happened before. So, that can also cause problems too."
Money well spent
The Lakers have the highest payroll in the NBA at $91.3 million, and Lakers owner Jerry Buss will have to pay the dollar-for-dollar tax of $21.4 million for exceeding the league's luxury-tax threshold.
"Dr. Buss has done his job," Johnson said. "Now everybody has just got to play."