The Lakers are heading into what could be their last game of the 2011-2012 season. In Magic Johnson's eyes, the Lakers' Game 7 matchup Saturday night at Staples Center could also mark Mike Brown's last game as the Lakers coach.
But as Brown stood among a group of reporters at Saturday's morning shoot-around, he gave the impression that he's hardly concerned about the prediction Johnson shared Friday night as an ESPN NBA analyst.
"Magic's a good guy and he's entitled to his opinion," Brown said. "ESPN probably pays him seven figures. So he's got to make comments wherever he feels it's necessary to make comments and he's got to make the comments he feels are the truth or he believes in. He's free to say what he wants."
Johnson sold his 4.5% stake in the Lakers in 2010, but he remains on the payroll as a vice president. The Lakers' star also remains close with owner Jerry Buss. Yet it remains to be seen how much Johnson's opinion truly reflects the Lakers' sentiments. The Lakers' front office has publicly praised Brown's performance as head coach in his first season. Brown, who makes an average of $4.5 million a year, has two more guaranteed years followed by a team option.
"That's a Magic Johnson opinion," Lakers forward Metta World Peace said when told of the prediction. "That's not my concern. I don't have anything to do with his opinion. We're in America, first off. You have freedom of speech. Secondly, anybody is entitled to a opinion. That's one opinion and he's entitled to his opinion. So I can't judge him for his opinion."
Johnson, in fact, has provided plenty of opinions.
Before the Dallas Mavericks swept the Lakers in the 2011 NBA Western Conference semifinals, Johnson urged Lakers owner Jerry Buss to "blow this team up." That involved being open to trading anyone except Kobe Bryant. In mid-February, Johnson commented that executive Jim Buss needed to meet with Bryant so he'd become more informed about the front office's plans. Johnson also suggested Jim Buss has more power in the front office than Mitch Kupchak, an assertion the Lakers general manager later disputed to The Times' Mike Bresnahan.
After becoming part of Guggenheim Baseball Management, the new Dodgers ownership group, Johnson said in a statement that he intends to "build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt," a comment that earned plenty of scorn because it praised the highly unpopular former Dodgers owner.
Brown couldn't help but laugh when a reporter remarked that Johnson should be more concerned about the Dodgers than speculating about Brown's job security. "He said that," Brown said, pointing to a reporter. "I did not."
Regardless of whether Johnson's statements prove true or not, it still provides an additional backdrop surrounding future off-season plans should the Lakers lose in the first round.
"My focus is on winning this game," Brown said. "That's it. All the other stuff, I don't have control over the other stuff. I think I've told pretty much everybody here covering me that you guys have jobs to do. Magic has a job to do and one of his jobs is to voice his opinion. He's a great guy. There's nothing for me to be concerned about there. I'm playing and coaching to win this game tonight. That's it."