Magic Johnson: ‘[Jerry Buss is] Going to Have to Blow This Team Up’

by Adam Figman

Assuming the Lakers can’t come back from the 3-0 hole they find themselves in this morning, the team’s management will have some serious decisions to make this summer. Can they keep the entire team intact and compete next season, with the likes of the Thunder, Heat and Bulls improving by the day (and the Celtics and Mavs likely to still be very relevant)?

And if not, what’s the next move? Who goes? Who stays?

Magic Johnson thinks he knows what team owner Jerry Buss needs to do: Blow the whole damn roster up (minus Kobe Bryant) and start over.

His rationale is explained in the L.A. Times:

The Lakers great argued as an ESPN NBA analyst Saturday that the Lakers, and owner Jerry Buss, will need to make serious changes to their veteran-heavy roster during the off-season. Johnson’s most pointed suggestion involved the Lakers’ trading for Dwight Howard, even if it means giving up Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom.

“Dr. Buss has a lot of work to do,” said [Magic] Johnson. “He’s probably going to have to blow this team up after the season if the Lakers lose this series because you have to come back with some fresh faces. You have to pick between the two big men with which one you keep and then you trade the other one.”

Johnson didn’t aim his criticism solely at the Lakers’ front line, arguing that everybody outside of Kobe Bryant should be considered trade bait in what will be an uncertain off-season. In addition to the strong possibility Dallas will eliminate the Lakers, the 2010-11 season will be the last for Coach Phil Jackson. Reserves Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown can exercise player options to stay next season, with Barnes telling The Times’ Mike Bresnahan in March he planned to do that and Brown conceding he’s open to opting out. And of course, the cloud surrounding the league’s expiring collective bargaining agreement on June 30 weighs heavily on all NBA teams.

“The Lakers have two problems,” said Johnson, who sold his 4.5% ownership stake in the Lakers to billionaire season ticket-holder Patrick Soon-Shiong in October but has kept his title as vice president. “They’re too slow and they have no athletes. This is an athletic league now. When you think about all the teams that are in the playoffs right now, they all can run fast and jump high.

“Sometimes you can be together too long,” he continued. “This group has been probably together too long.”

Of course, all of this is assuming the Lakers don’t ride back right into the series and get their comeback on. Which is almost definitely not going to happen, but at this point, you’d really bet against Kobe Bryant?