Magic Johnson Rips Dwight Howard's Offense, Says D'Antoni Must Coach Defense

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2013

Magic Johnson's support of the Los Angeles Lakers signing Dwight Howard comes with strings attached.

Speaking on a conference call about ABC and ESPN's coverage of the NBA Finals, Magic ripped Superman's offensive game or rather, lack thereof, saying the All-Star center has a lot of work to do this summer.

Some specification would have been nice. Howard did, after all, hit on 57.8 percent of his shots and averaged 17.1 points per game during the regular season. His shoulder clearly limited him, but what is it Magic wants him to do better?

Pressed further, he became a bit more particular, though still vague, imploring Howard to hit the gym and establish some go-to moves

If Howard can do that, then Magic will back his return to Tinseltown. But, you know, no pressure or anything, Dwight. Also, feel free to toss in the ability to convert on more than 49.2 percent of your free throws.

There was no mincing of words when the Hall of Famer was asked about head coach Mike D'Antoni, though. He declared that the mustached wonder must change his approach and begin to coach defense if he wishes to be successful in Hollywood. 

Nothing Magic said is really new there. "Defense wins championships" is an age-old adage, one that has come to bite D'Antoni in the buttocks in each of his 10-plus years as a head coach.

Of course, it becomes easier for D'Antoni to manipulate his offense-first, defense-never approach if Howard returns. The Lakers need a defensive anchor regardless of who their coach is, and prior to last season, no one was considered better than Howard.

Before D'Antoni starts fiddling with his clipboard and reading Defense For Dummies, he needs to have a concrete idea of what kind of roster he's dealing with. And before Howard hones his offensive skills to meet the needs of the Lakers, he has to decide if he still wants to play for them.

Magic himself doesn't know either. When asked, he was unable to make any predictions. Can't say I blame him. The last Lakers-related forecast he made asserted the boys in purple and gold would beat the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. That didn't pan out so well.

Mindful of what he was saying, Magic did cite the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks as the greatest threats to the Lakers' courtship of Howard.

“With Dwight Howard, (Houston) would take the next step as being one of the elite teams — I would say one of the best four or five teams in the league — and definitely would give themselves a chance to win a championship,” Johnson said, according to David Barron of Ultimate Rockets.

Luckily for the Lakers, Magic stopped just short of saying "Hell, Dwight, just sign with the Rockets." He all but implied as much anyway. 

But he is correct, the Rockets are a threat. A big one. The Lakers will be forced to compete heavily with them and can only hope Howard chooses sunny California over a more media-friendly Houston.

Really, though, the Lakers just need to know what Howard is doing, regardless of what it is. They're at a standstill until he does.

Everything they're doing hinges on Howard's decision, as is seemingly always the case. Once the Lakers know what he's doing, they can attempt to better themselves to where they're actually worthy of receiving Magic's unconditional stamp of approval.