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Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Magic on concerns about D'Antoni's system in L.A.

By Ramona Shelburne

Like most Los Angeles Laker fans, Magic Johnson has enjoyed watching the team average 116.5 points a game in the two games since Mike D'Antoni took over as coach of the Lakers last week. It has been fast-paced, exciting and fun to watch for all involved.

He's just still not sure it's the type of basketball that can bring a title to Los Angeles.

"I just hope that he can come in and make them a championship-caliber team, not just an exciting team," Johnson said during an interview on ESPN radio's "Mike and Mike" on Tuesday morning.

Johnson said his primary concern is that the Lakers roster may not have enough proficient outside shooters that are needed to effectively run D'Antoni's system.

"I think what he wants to incorporate a spread type offense, make sure that the spacing is there, to make sure the creators can now get their shot," Johnson said. "That's going to really affect Steve Nash's game in a positive way. It helps Gasol, it helps Dwight Howard, but the Lakers really need more outside shooting for this offense to really do well.

"I don't think it hurts anybody, we just don't have some of the right players still for coach D'Antoni's system to take full effect. That means we need a couple more outside shooters."

Johnson was critical of the Lakers' hiring of D'Antoni last week, tweeting that he was "mourning Phil Jackson not being hired as the Lakers head coach" and later criticizing Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss' decision-making.

"I love Dr. (Jerry) Buss. I don't believe in Jim Buss," Johnson said last Wednesday on ESPN's "NBA Countdown."

"He's made two critical mistakes already. To me, they made two critical mistakes. First, hiring Mike Brown -- he wasn't the right coach. He's a great coach but not the right coach for the Lakers. And I don't feel Mike D'Antoni is the right coach for the Lakers. Especially when you have Phil Jackson sitting out there, who wanted to be the Laker coach. Jim Buss decided he didn't want Phil Jackson, he wanted Mike D'Antoni. And that's OK, but why didn't you just say that? But the fans were cheering for Phil Jackson two nights in a row."

Asked by ESPNLosAngeles.com if he'd heard about Johnson's on-air comments, Jim Buss texted, "But I believe in Magic as I always have."

Johnson did not expound on those comments Tuesday morning, although he reiterated his preference for Jackson.

"Of course you know I was cheering for Phil Jackson," he said. "I thought bringing an 11-time championship coach back to the Lakers a third time would've been great. He knows the players, I thought the Triangle would've fit the talent that the team has. But they decided to go in a different direction with Mike D'Antoni.

"To his credit, the last two games the Lakers have played -- now he hasn't been on the bench but he's been at practice -- you can see the team is definitely more exciting. They're moving quicker, the ball is moving quicker, and the fans have definitely taken to seeing his system starting to take with this team. And the guys are definitely happy that he was named the coach."

Johnson tweeted last week that he appreciated D'Antoni reaching out to him and that he would "support him."

Tuesday he placed the responsibility for that on to Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

"Kobe almost has to become more of a leader and help his teammates, help D'Antoni," Johnson said. "He has to almost be like Steve Nash is going to be. Steve will be like the first coach on the team, but Kobe has to be like the second coach. Because there's going to be tough times. There's going to be times where we lose back to back or a couple in a row and it's going to be Kobe's leadership to help the guys get through that tough period.

"I know that he was looking for a change, he's found that change in coach D'Antoni. Now the players gotta step up. This is what they wanted so now they have to step up on that basketball court, especially on the defensive end."