Does Magic Johnson Really Care About the Success of the Los Angeles Lakers?

Kevin Ding@@KevinDingNBA Senior WriterJanuary 16, 2014

Always go with the guy who cares too much over the guy who doesn’t care enough.

In a team game, give me a passionate Nick Young, who won’t stand for disrespect and will roar with pride in himself and his teameven if he loses control for a moment the way he did on Wednesday night.

Caring is not an excuse for lack of control, but it’s real and understandable.

So you might think that the same applies to Magic Johnson, who logically should care deeply about the Los Angeles Lakers and take immense pride in their brand.

But does Magic really care? I don’t think so anymore.

Johnson made his latest brainless, whichever-way-the-wind-blows comments Wednesday in a meeting with Los Angeles Times staffers.

His uneducated, shallow, fleeting assessments indicate he's a bandwagon guy who mainly wants to make clear, in a trap a lot of older people tend to fall into, that the past was better. Jerry Buss was his benefactor, Jerry West was great, blah blah blah.

If Johnson really cared, he'd be responsible with his comments.

Whether or not Jim Buss deserves anyone’s defense, the reality is that Johnson has flip-flopped. Speaking with the LA Times in August 2012, Magic raved about Buss following the acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard:

I love it. Jim, you look like your father; I’m proud of you. He’s definitely the guy now to win the NBA executive-of-the-year award.

This is also so good for Coach Mike Brown. He knows defense so well and Dwight is going to erase those shots coming down the lane, and Mike will know just how to use him. The Lakers’ tradition of great centers continues. It's just great.

Here was Johnson on Wednesday:

This is what happens when you make the wrong decisions, two coaching wrong decisions, giving Steve Nash that deal, it’s backfired. …

You’ve got to have someone helping Jim. He’s got to quit trying to prove a point to everybody that he can do it on his own, get his ego out of it, and just say, "Let me get someone beside me to help achieve the goals I want."

Johnson went on to say the Lakers should get West back to be the face of the franchise to recruit free agents.

With all due respect to West’s epic accomplishments in the past, “The Logo” is 75 years old, already an ownership consultant for the Golden State Warriors and hasn’t directly influenced the course of NBA history in 13 years.

The only player left in this hip-hop league who reveres West is Kobe Bryant, and he’s the one guy the Lakers already have. The Lakers have a better chance of selling today’s free agents with West’s son, Ryan, whom they already employ as one of their scouting directors.

Then-Times columnist T.J. Simers quoted Johnson, who in 2011 sold his ownership stake in the Lakers and now owns part of the Dodgers, in that same 2012 piece as saying the Lakers would win the NBA title last season.

Simers also wrote, “Howard has already told the Lakers he will sign a five-year contract extension next summer.” Oops.

But there are so many swings and misses these days.

Rick Schwartz, who does freelance host work for ESPN Radio in Los Angeles, insisted on Twitter two weeks ago that Pau Gasol had been traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gasol, checking Twitter at intermission of The Lion King musical with his parents and brother, was forwarded that info as what he viewed to be “almost official.”

Our society no longer puts a premium on accountability. The story behind the story with these things is if you really cared, you would be more accountable, more responsible, more righteous.

Magic needs to shut up. And, yes, Young’s teammates should’ve stepped up when he was irate about being flagrantly fouled by Alex Len of the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.

The Lakers on the court with Young didn’t have to do any fighting or even be fake tough guys, but they should’ve raced in there to help Young if for no other reason than to protect him from his own frustration and now-likely suspension. If they cared more, they would have.

However, the Lakers’ chemistrya big reason they overcame insufficient talent to post a winning record early this seasonhas eroded with all the injuries and changes.

There’s no shame or scandal in that, even if Young’s ongoing frustration led him to briefly "like" two Instagram photos late Wednesday night that mocked Lakers teammate Kendall Marshall for not having Young’s back during the altercation.

Former Laker and Time Warner Cable SportsNet analyst Robert Horry skewered Marshall and Ryan Kelly on the Lakers’ postgame show for not helping Young when he was being pushed around by Suns players. Horry went so far as to say that if he were in Young’s place, he would’ve spoken up on the team bus to address why his teammates weren’t there for him.

It’s not as big a reason the Lakers have lost 12 of 13 games as the depleted roster, yet there is always a correlation between caring, doing the right thing and winning.

Before Young “liked” one of those Instagram photos, someone else of note already had: Shawne Williams. Mike D’Antoni referred to him as someone “you enjoy walking down an alley with” on the day he was released by the Lakers.

After Young, ejected from the game, walked off the court toward the locker room, by his side in that actual alley was injured teammate Jordan Farmar.

A month-and-a-half ago, Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins angered a falling Farmar with an extra shove. Williams was the one to engage Cousins to the point where Farmar wound up pulling Williams away from the fray. “We’re a family," he said after that victory. "Gotta let ‘em know we can’t stand for that.”

Kelly has replaced Williams as the stretch 4. Marshall is playing in Farmar’s place at point guard.

It’s not the same team, it’s not the same caring that Young found uniquely special among the many NBA locker rooms through which he has passed.

Times change and people change—and accountability slips. It’s increasingly the way of our society now. It’s harder and harder to find the fair and honorable.

In today's mixed-up world, a first-year guy with a reputation of selfishness and the self-anointed nickname of “Swaggy P” can be a truer Laker than even Magic Johnson.


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