By Mitch Chortkoff
On Tuesday, it was opening night of the National Basketball Association season and former Laker great Magic Johnson was in peak form.
However, Johnson is no longer a player or even a Laker minority owner. He’s one of the Dodgers’ new owners.
“But my heart is still with the Lakers,” he said. “I love the Lakers.”
He loves them enough to be quite upset about the status of the franchise.
Johnson spent Tuesday appearing on a variety of radio sports shows and his theme was the same – the Lakers are in trouble.
He worries about the upcoming years if Jim Buss, the new owner, doesn’t change his ways.
“Jerry Buss welcomed advice from his basketball people,” Johnson recalled. “He had Jerry West, Mitch Kupchak, me sometimes, four or five people he respected. As the owner he made final decisions but he listened to advisors he trusted.
‘Jim Buss doesn’t want anyone telling him what to do. I think it’s ego.
“But in recruiting free agents can you imagine Pat Riley competing against Jim Buss? I think Pat has a lot of credibility that would be a big advantage.
“I don’t think Jim Buss is a bad guy. Not at all. But I think he needs to listen to advice.”
Johnson then took off on the Lakers’ failure to hire Phil Jackson as coach. He listed Jackson’s impressive credentials and pointed out Jackson is engaged to Jeannie Buss, so hiring him would have been easy and most welcome.
Finally, Johnson was critical of Coach Mike D’Antonio’s handling of Pau Gasol last season.
“He messed with Pau, and Pau is one of the premier big men in basketball,” Johnson said. “In fact, for awhile, he took Pau out of the lineup.”
With 81 games remaining in the regular season it remains to be seen what the upcoming games will bring.