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T.J. SIMERS

Back at Dodger Stadium, Magic Johnson can still talk ... and talk

Johnson, one of the Dodgers' new owners, hasn't been around much, but in his return this week he shows he's more than eager to discuss the Dodgers and the Lakers.

July 31, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • Dodgers co-owner and Lakers great Magic Johnson looks on during the Dodgers' loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on Monday. Johnson says he's committed to the team.
Dodgers co-owner and Lakers great Magic Johnson looks on during the Dodgers'… (Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty…)

With the Dodgers continuing to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt, I took advantage of an opportunity to chat with Magic on Tuesday.

Yeah, he was here. Shocker, I know.

The Dodgers said he would meet the media in the dugout at 4 p.m. It was pretty clever on their part as I was sitting in the dugout around 3:45 waiting while Magic was already talking to the media outside the Dodgers' clubhouse.

When I got word he was gushing elsewhere, I rushed over because, as you know, he says the darnedest things.

My favorite so far, Magic going on the stadium scoreboard with a taped message to say of Spanish broadcaster Jaime Jarrin: "The best voice out there, No. 1."

They cut him off with Vin Scully and Charley Steiner sitting on the edge of their seats before he could say who was No. 2.

I believe the taped message was the last time I saw Magic here until this week.

By the time I reached him he was saying, "Ned Colletti is a great baseball man."

Like I said, he says the darnedest things.

As always, there was a steady flow of suck-up questions, one media guy telling Magic he talked to a couple of players who said they get a boost of energy when they see Magic sitting there outside the dugout.

"Do you realize it's pretty cool for them to see you sitting there?" the guy said.

It's just me, but I would have said, "Do you realize what a letdown it is when you say you're going to be here and the guys look over and you're not there?"

But for some reason folks go easy on Magic, although there might not be a athlete in the world more capable of answering tough questions. We should all be so blessed with the gift of gab.

"It was one of my goals, but it didn't happen, so you have to continue on," Magic said when I asked him why he had exaggerated so when promising to be here every day.

"I'm not backtracking," he added, and that was odd. "But sometimes you have the best intentions and it doesn't work out. I've been on the phone every day with everybody even when I was just on vacation."

When he mentioned his vacation, I said, "When you were on Rihanna's boat did you talk about Matt Kemp?"

Magic then gave me the full Magic laugh.

"I think she said, 'Tell him, hi.' I just delivered that message to him," he said.

Moving on, Magic said, whether here or not, "I'm still a Dodger man, still a Dodger owner and pinch myself every day that I'm still part owner of this wonderful organization."

He pinches himself every day?

I asked if he could name the Dodgers' starting shortstop.

"Cruz, or the one that is out?" said Magic, and I didn't ask for a first name because I wouldn't know if he had it right.

Magic said he knows his Dodgers very well, and just loves the acquisition of Hanley Ramirez. He said ownership has shown everyone, "We don't want to wait until next year. We want to win now."

So is this a championship team?

"I think we are," he said, though the improved Dodgers have been outscored, 15-4, in two games this week. "But everybody has to play their A game."

If not, I said, are you going to be as tough on Don Mattingly as you have been on Mike Brown?

"I'm really not tough on Mike Brown," Magic said. "I just want Mike to do a better job.

"I like Mike Brown. I thought the defense since Mike came here has improved. But I don't like a 7-footer out on the perimeter when we have the advantage down low. I have to point that out. And the Lakers don't lose in the first round; that's not who we are."

When I teased him about being critical of the Lakers, he didn't detect the intended humor.

"I love the Lakers. It doesn't mean I don't love the Lakers. I'm going to be tough on everybody I love."

What a relief, I said.

"I don't love you so I won't be tough on you," Magic said. "You know what's funny? You [criticize] me for being tough and then you're tough on them. Are you the only one who can be tough on the Lakers?"

I think that's fair, I told him about the same time a Dodgers PR type stepped in to protect Magic, saying he had to leave.

"Where?" I asked. "The game doesn't start for another three hours."

"I'm a big boy," Magic said. "I can take everything you dish out."

I thought about mentioning his TV show or his try at coaching the Lakers, but switched to Andrew Bynum.

"I think Bynum is not going to reach his potential," Magic continued, and I wondered if I had heard correctly.

"What I'm saying is Bynum has to take the next step," Magic said. "If he takes the next step, he should stay. He will be a dominant center. But he hasn't done it yet."

Magic said the Lakers still need an outside shooter to be championship-worthy. He said recently Jim Buss did a good job in rebuilding, and would call it a great job if he added Dwight Howard.

"Dwight is better than Bynum," he said. "Everybody knows that.

"I want what's best for the organization. Dwight would be amazing with Steve Nash and Kobe. Finally Kobe will have a chance to rest on offense"

Like I said, he says the darnedest things.

It was Kirk Gibson Bobblehead night here, so I asked if Gibson's homer was the greatest moment in L.A. sports history. I swear I was smiling.

"I think it could be one of the greatest, yes," he said.

As for Magic's great moments, "I don't talk about myself," he said. "I love Kirk, and I'm going to love you one day, too."

Like I said, he says the darnedest things.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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