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Magic Johnson says Lakers made mistake in not rehiring Phil Jackson

Johnson tells Jay Leno on the 'Tonight Show': Lakers 'made a critical mistake in not bringing Phil Jackson back' and says Coach Mike D'Antoni doesn't teach defense.

January 28, 2014|By Ben Bolch

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Magic Johnson torched his favorite team again, telling "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno on Monday night that the Lakers were in a bind largely because they had hired Coach Mike D'Antoni instead of Phil Jackson early last season.

"He don't teach defense," Johnson said. "I can't stand to watch the Lakers play because the same play happens every single time on the Lakers — pick and roll and the guard goes all the way in for a layup.

"What are we, 40-something games into the season? The teams run the same play on us. We haven't stopped it yet. Uh, duh."

D'Antoni, whose team had surrendered 100 points or more in 12 consecutive games before facing the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night at Staples Center, declined to address Johnson's comments.

"I don't have anything to say," D'Antoni said. "I mean, there's no use to address it."

But isn't the criticism hurtful?

"Oh, yeah. It doesn't help me," D'Antoni said. "But that's not up to me to say."

The Lakers were giving up an average of 106.1 points per game before Tuesday, second-worst in the NBA. Compounding their defensive problems have been the extended absences of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry because of injuries.

"Defensive efficiency is all about continuity and togetherness and trust," said Pacers Coach Frank Vogel, whose team was giving up a league-low 90.2 points per game before Tuesday. "You've got guys coming in and out of that lineup, it's almost impossible to play at a high level."

Johnson, who recently ripped Lakers owner Jim Buss for what Johnson characterized as a series of bad decisions, said his admiration for D'Antoni was conditional.

"Coach D'Antoni, I liked him when he was with Phoenix," Johnson said. "We're the Lakers. We've got to have a championship coach. We made a critical mistake in not bringing Phil Jackson back."

Johnson also said the Lakers needed to make themselves more attractive to a free-agent class this summer that could include LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.

"We have to make sure we're headed in a championship direction because none of those guys are going to come here if we're not about winning a championship," said Johnson, who won five titles in his 13 seasons with the Lakers.

"And the Lakers have always been about winning a championship, so I hope they get back on course."

And another thing …

Johnson appeared to snub Bryant on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon by omitting his name while praising Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and other top players in the history of the league.

"Right before our eyes we are witnessing the greatness of Kevin Durant," Johnson tweeted. "With [Russell] Westbrook being out KD has taken his game to the next level!

"The great ones Michael [Jordan], Larry [Bird], Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], LeBron and now Kevin Durant can put their teams on their back and win!"

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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