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T.J. SIMERS

It's not a Magic moment for Lakers in many ways

Getting swept in four games by Dallas in a semifinal series goes hand in hand with being tossed under the bus by one of the club's all-time greats.

May 08, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Don't expect to see this soon: Not the Lakers hoisting another trophy but legendary point guard Magic Johnson being welcomed to the party after his critical comments this playoff season.
Don't expect to see this soon: Not the Lakers hoisting another trophy… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

From Dallas

I can understand how people might've misunderstood "four" and "fore" sounding just the same.

But come on, how could anyone think the woebegone Lakers were going to win four games in a row against the Mighty Mavericks?

Even Plaschke wouldn't suggest such a thing.

Photos: Mavericks sweep Lakers

Obviously, I was just yelling "fore," especially every time one of the Lakers' bench duds launched a three.

But now before heading to the driving range, let me just say this: Thank heavens it was Mother's Day, a great reminder to the Lakers that someone still loves them, if only their mothers.

As for Magic Johnson and everyone else, what bums. Throw in gutless, too, as well as classless.

How bad is it when Magic, the team's vice president, goes on national TV to suggest the team be "blown up" — before the Lakers have been eliminated from the playoffs?

How's that for leadership or loyalty from one of its very own? Although today everyone would probably be in agreement it's not too soon to ship Pau Gasol somewhere, if only to a shrink.

"It's like they are already on vacation and didn't want to play this game," Magic said in updating his comments at halftime of Sunday's game.

And some folks think columnists are too critical. It was only one week ago today that the Lakers were the favorites to advance to the finals in the West. But my how time flies when Magic is having a bad time, talking about "the players not believing in each other," while suggesting team owner Jerry Buss might have to trade Gasol or Andrew Bynum or Lamar Odom.

"The Lakers have two problems," Johnson told an ESPN audience. I would have guessed Ron Artest and Steve Blake.

But he said the Lakers are "too slow and [have] no athletes. This is an athletic league now. When you think about all the teams that are still in the playoffs right now, they can all run fast and jump high."

Magic, doing his best outrageous imitation of Charles Barkley, said the Lakers must decide between keeping Bynum or Gasol, his fellow TV sidekicks then suggesting Dwight Howard might be the Lakers' answer.

As pregame pep talks go, it worked as well as Magic's criticism of the Lakers seven years ago when Kobe & Shaq were down two games to one in the Finals against Detroit.

"I'm angry. You have to compete," said Magic, his criticism making headlines. "And we're not competing."

The Lakers responded by losing the next two games. Magic is 0-3 as a motivational speaker.

"Yeah, I thought [his comments] were unnecessary at this time," Phil Jackson said before closing out his NBA career with four consecutive playoff losses.

The next few days will be dominated by stronger comments from angry and disgusted Lakers fans. Magic's remarks will eventually seem tame by comparison.

I wonder how many of the Lakers car flags that were passed out at the final home playoff game will be flown this week.

The Lakers will be dismissed as quitters, too old, too slow and too childish after separate cheap shots from Odom and Bynum led to ejections.

"I'm saddened by Andrew's and Lamar's screw-ups as they came off the floor; that's not the way we play ball," Jackson said. "And I'm saddened by the fact we didn't contest; that's really tough for me. And I'm also unhappy that [Fisher] and Kobe had to go through this, and so I gave kudos to them in front of the team.

"As for myself, I'm still happy. It's nice to be done. I wanted to do this, did it, and it was a really great ride. I've been very lucky; this is like the first time I haven't been lucky in the playoffs."

Four of Jackson's five children came to Dallas just in case this would be his final game. The NBA apparently didn't want him to get away either without a proper send-off, fining him $35,000 hours before the game for criticizing referees a day earlier.

"It's not fun having a feeling like I'm being chased down the freeway by the [NBA]," he said. "But as Richard Nixon said, 'You won't be able to kick this guy around anymore.' "

But might he return? A reporter raised the issue in Jackson's postgame news conference.

"In a tongue-in-cheek sort of way," he said, "[Dallas Coach] Rick Carlisle said you might want to retire for a couple of years, but after mediating and smoking peyote, you'll come back."

"First of all, you don't smoke peyote," said Jackson, everyone getting a good laugh before telling everyone he has no intention of returning.

True to form, Jackson went out seemingly unmoved by the lopsided loss, some mistaking that as an indication that Jackson retired weeks ago.

"I wasn't emotional, but that's part of who I am," he said. "Maybe there was a twinge of emotion when I stood in front of the team because I might not see these guys anymore."

Hard to believe anyone would want to see these guys any time soon the way they disappointed. They were pretty much a disappointment all season save a 17-1 stretch after the All-Star break.

Even though it was a game the Lakers had to win and they had the experience of consecutive titles, Jackson said, "There were a couple of players that felt daunted by the energy in the game."

Translation, or as Magic might say: Some players quit.

"I really felt there were a couple of players who didn't really step into the performance that I would have liked to see."

Maybe a change in attitude rather than talent is the magic answer. When this series began, if asked to draft a team from the five starters playing for both teams, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Bynum, Gasol and Odom would probably be the first five names mentioned.

Whatever the answer, and everyone will have one in the next few days, it's why they have the 19th hole in golf.

Photos: Mavericks sweep Lakers

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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