Magic Johnson heaps applause on Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak because the Lakers… (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated…)
It wasn't too long ago that Magic Johnson looked into a TV camera and said what most Lakers fans were thinking: "Jim Buss, brother, you have a job to do.
"I'm telling you right now, because if you don't do it, you're going to hear from me."
So here he was again Thursday night, Magic bursting with excitement and saying over and over again, "Wow!"
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Holy Chris Paul, NBA Commissioner David Stern still has to confirm the Lakers are championship-worthy by allowing Dwight Howard to officially join the team, but wow indeed.
The Lakers have positioned themselves to essentially surrender Andrew Bynum for Howard in a four-team deal. Bynum is now going to do his handicap parking in Philadelphia.
And Howard has already told the Lakers he will sign a five-year contract extension next summer, standing to make more money while playing out this season.
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"That's what makes this even more exciting and why I said what I did," says Magic, who had a chat with Howard a couple of weeks ago. "We now will have our superstar when Kobe is gone. This is what the Lakers are."
Reporters across the country had it all wrong much of Thursday, suggesting it would take Bynum as well as Pau Gasol to make this work. But the Lakers apparently were not so crazy.
They can now team Howard and Gasol together with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, making the Lakers the favorites going four-on-five with almost any team in the league.
"This makes them ahead of Oklahoma City and I think they will win the championship,” Magic says, and everyone can only hope the Lakers dismiss Miami just as easily. “It’s just unbelievable."
Now how many times have folks pronounced Buss the spoiled kid who was going to run the Lakers into the ground, only to learn now that he just might have his father’s touch.
Everyone dismissed Buss as a Bynum lover, funny now when you consider he pushed to draft him and then turned him into Howard.
“I love it,” says Magic. “Jim, you look like your father; I’m proud of you. He’s definitely the guy now to win the NBA executive-of-the-year award. My compliments to Jim and Mitch Kupchak; they had the knowledge and fortitude to hang in there and get it done.
“They now deserve a great vacation and the appreciation of Laker fans, and really, basketball fans everywhere. All four teams in this deal are going to be better for it.”
Who really knows if Howard’s back is all right after surgery? He’s been in Los Angeles undergoing rehab, telling me a few weeks ago at Dodger Stadium he will be ready for the start of the season.
Who knows if he will learn to coexist with Kobe?
He told the Lakers a year ago he did not want to play here because it was Kobe’s team, and Kobe didn’t say the right things Howard needed to hear in a telephone conversation. But now I’m hearing they have made nice. And Howard is probably aware that Kobe is signed so far to play only two more years here.
Who knows if Howard will continue to use his brooding bodyguards as his spokesmen? His reputation has been taking a hit, and he’s done himself no favors in dragging out this process while saying nothing.
But right now, who really cares? The best-case scenario for the Lakers when the season ended, as articulated by so many critics, is about to become a reality.
The Lakers could probably use another three-point shooter, but now we’re nitpicking.
It’s a fresh start for the Lakers, after all, and although some of the key ingredients will be in line for senior citizen discounts in a few years, the window to win a championship has now been thrown open.
“Steve Nash,” says Magic, pronouncing his name like someone else might proclaim, “Holy smokes.”
“In Dwight Howard you have someone who is going to run the floor and he’s going to have the opportunity for so many dunks, so many easy shots because Nash will be giving him the ball.”
The addition of Howard and Nash, while obviously making the Lakers better, makes them potentially more fun to watch. And “fun” isn’t a word that has been associated with the Lakers too often the last few years.
"It won't be the 90s anymore, scoring 89 or maybe 90 points,” says Magic. “This team is going to have some kind of offense, and all these guys are only going to make our role players better.
"This is also so good for Coach Mike Brown. He knows defense so well and Dwight is going to erase those shots coming down the lane and Mike will know just how to use him. The Lakers’ tradition of great centers continues. It's just great."
The Lakers were not talking Thursday night, still gunshy after being stung by Stern, who helped put the kibosh on a trade to land Paul last season.
But if all goes well with the commissioner, the rest of the league soon will be left to wonder how the Lakers always seem to land the very best star power the NBA has to offer.