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Lakers legend Jerry West says he was joking about aging roster comment

Jerry West says he's optimistic about the Lakers after their victory over the Celtics and says the Lakers' biggest problem on defense comes when their offense doesn't execute.

February 11, 2011|By Mark Medina
  • Lakers legends Jerry West and Magic Johnson chat during an event announcing naming rights for the proposed football stadium in downtown L.A.
Lakers legends Jerry West and Magic Johnson chat during an event announcing… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

Hall of Famer Jerry West's critical comments a few weeks ago about the Lakers' aging roster and problems on defense were repeated to the team and intensely analyzed by the media.

On Friday, West described the intense reaction to what he said as "laughable" and just part of an "endless soap opera."

"You can't even have an opinion anymore," West said. "Everyone has an opinion. I was joking."

Still, West made additional comments about the Lakers, and called their 92-86 victory over the Celtics in Boston on Thursday as a "great win," adding he's more optimistic about the Lakers' chances of winning another title.

West made his latest comments at a promotional event in Malibu for the Northern Trust Open golf tournament that will take place Feb. 17-20 at Riviera Country Club.

"The Lakers' biggest problem defensively [this season] has been their offense," West said. "They don't run patiently with their offense. They have two big guys and when they get down in their [offensive] set, they're very good. But if they turn the ball over and have quick shots, they can't get back [on defense]."

He also noted the team's recent progress — the Lakers won the first three games of their seven-game road trip.

"The Lakers have great talent, and they should be favored to win [the championship]," West said. "But as I say, they're not going to win if they don't run their offense correctly, which will lead to bad defense."

The great unknown is how healthy the team's key players are for the rest of this season.

"Losing Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol [to injury] would destroy this team" and the Lakers would "become a common team," West said.

But he added the same would be true if Miami lost LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, or if the Celtics were without Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce.

And getting a season split with the Celtics didn't ease West's worry about the Lakers' rival.

"I would not want to play Boston in a seven-game series, regardless of who it's going to be" opposing them, he said.

sports@latimes.com

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