Magic Johnson knows why the Lakers are off to an 8-0 start.
"Thanks to Miami," the Lakers legend said, smiling in a corridor underneath Staples Center on Tuesday.
Johnson said owner Jerry Buss decided to spend money this off-season when it became apparent the Miami Heat would try to become a power team by adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
"I don't think the mind-set would have been the same if Miami hadn't done what it did, because what Miami did sparked everybody," said Johnson, a Lakers vice president who just sold his share of the team ownership. "It sparked Dr. Buss, because, remember, he was going to cut back but he decided to spend the money, so give him a lot of credit, and then it just trickled all the way down. I think it sparked Phil [Jackson] too, and especially the best player in the world. Kobe [Bryant] has now got everybody else on the same page."
The Lakers were debating whether to spend their mid-level exception of $5.8 million for this season when free agency began July 1. The answer became obvious, quickly handed down by Buss.
The Lakers signed Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff, a veteran nucleus that stabilized their bench.
Johnson likes what he sees, but is this team as good as the Bryant- Shaquille O'Neal team that won three titles last decade or even the Showtime teams that Johnson helped lead to five titles in the 1980s?
"When [Andrew] Bynum comes back, they can be just as good as all those teams," Johnson said. "The bench is outstanding. When you think about those teams, the bench was also great. I think that's what they have here.
"They have an incredible staring five once Bynum is healthy, and when Lamar [Odom] moves back to the bench, oh my goodness. Lamar should win sixth man of the year. This guy is playing just unbelievable right now. If Bynum waits to come back later, Lamar can be on the All-Star team. He's playing that great."
And, of course, there's the Bryant factor.
"I think he wants to tie Michael [Jordan], but also too, he wants to beat Miami," Johnson said. "Kobe is Kobe … the best in the league. This team is just poised and I think they're going to do something really special this year."
Odom sues IRS
Odom filed suit in U.S. Tax Court because of an Internal Revenue Service bill for $87,000 over a dispute in his 2007 taxes involving deductions for basketball fines and training expenses, according to Forbes.
The IRS found fault with Odom's deduction of $178,337 in training expenses and $12,000 in fines, saying they were personal, not business, expenses.
Odom declined to comment Tuesday but said in court papers that his Lakers contract required him to be in "sufficient physical condition that allows him to perform as a professional basketball player throughout the basketball season." He said the deductions were "work-related" and a "necessary employee business expense."
Buss family trouble
The stepson of Jerry Buss will be arraigned in Beverly Hills court Nov. 23 after a judge said there was sufficient evidence to move forward after a preliminary hearing Tuesday.
Sean Yeager Buss, 36, was arrested March 31 and charged with felony battery causing serious bodily injury after an altercation with a parking-enforcement officer in Beverly Hills.
Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.