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Dodgers players say they can take on Magic Johnson

DODGERS FYI

Outfielder Matt Kemp and shortstop Dee Gordon think they can beat the former Lakers star, who is part of a group that has agreed to buy the Dodgers, in a one-on-one game of basketball.

March 29, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

PHOENIX — Matt Kemp has never lacked confidence.

Long before he made his first All-Star team, he talked about hitting 40 home runs and stealing 40 bases in the same season.

Now, Kemp is saying he would "definitely" beat Magic Johnson in a one-on-one game of basketball.

"Probably not back in the day," Kemp said. "I'd definitely take him one on one now. I don't think he's shooting hoops no more. He's wearing suits now. He's writing my checks."

Kemp laughed as he said this but sounded serious. He was a starting forward for a nationally ranked Midwest City High team in Oklahoma that included current NBA player Shelden Williams. Johnson is 52 years old.

Basketball has always been a frequent topic of conversation in the clubhouse. The chatter has only increased following the announcement that a group including Johnson agreed to buy the Dodgers.

"You hear all the basketball stories in there about all these guys' basketball prowess," Manager Don Mattingly said. "It's sad."

Shortstop Dee Gordon also thinks he could beat Johnson in a game of one on one. But Gordon, who said he was recruited by Louisville to play guard, conceded the 6-foot-9 Johnson's size would present problems. Gordon is listed at 5-11.

Tony Gwynn Jr. imagined what it would be like if Major League Baseball had a basketball league.

Gwynn, who said he was asked to walk on at San Diego State, named himself and Gordon the starting guards. Kemp would play in the frontcourt. Reliever Blake Hawksworth, who coaches a high school basketball team in the off-season, would also be on the team. Kenley Jansen would be the center, but only because he is 6-5; no one has seen him play.

James Loney was cut from the imaginary team.

"We'd be the best team," Gwynn said.

Mattingly smirked.

"Sure," Mattingly said sarcastically. "Talk to the 29 other clubs too. They all got great players."

Mattingly was equally dismissive of Kemp's claim that he could beat Johnson.

"Who would I bet on?" Mattingly said. "Please. Magic Man. Are you kidding me? It's a whole different league. I don't care if Matt played in high school."

Decision time

Ted Lilly will throw a bullpen session Friday, the results of which will determine whether he will pitch in the season-opening series in San Diego or start the season on the disabled list.

The Dodgers' No. 3 starter, Lilly hasn't pitched since March 21 because of a stiff neck.

If Lilly is ruled out for the start of the season, No. 5 starter Chris Capuano would slide into his spot. With the four-game series in San Diego followed by a day off and Clayton Kershaw scheduled to start the home opener April 10, the Dodgers were previously planning to skip Capuano's first turn in the rotation.

If Lilly lands on the disabled list, Mattingly said the Dodgers would use his roster spot to carry an extra reliever.

Short hops

The Dodgers will hold auditions for national anthem singers Saturday. The tryouts, which will be at Dodger Stadium, begin at 9 a.m. Parking and entrance are free. Participants are encouraged to bring a DVD of themselves performing the national anthem, as well as a resume. To download a participant waiver, visit dodgers.com/anthem. … In a nationally televised phone interview on "The Dan Patrick Show," Mattingly dropped an expletive when playfully talking about Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen. "It's just a small word," Mattingly said.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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