- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- As if there wasn't enough pressure already on Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brown heading into Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, now a prominent Lakers legend says Brown will be coaching to keep his job.
Former Laker Magic Johnson, working as an ESPN/ABC NBA analyst on Friday during the Los Angeles Clippers game against the Memphis Grizzlies, said that if the Nuggets beat the Lakers in Game 7 Brown's tenure in L.A. will be cut short.
"Mike Brown will not be coaching the Lakers if they lose this game," Johnson said. "There would be so much pressure on (Lakers executive vice president of player personnel) Jim Buss and the Laker organization to get rid of him."
Brown's job is not on the line based on Saturday night's outcome, according to a source with knowledge of the Lakers' thinking who told ESPNLosAngeles.com that the team would "never place an ultimatum on any coach, player or management (member)."
The Lakers released a statement Saturday afternoon in support of Brown.
"The opinion expressed yesterday by Magic Johnson regarding Mike Brown was his personal opinion and was made in his role as a TV analyst," the statement said. "His words were not made on behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers, and in no way do they reflect the feelings or position of team ownership or management. We are fully committed to and supportive of Mike Brown as head coach of the Lakers."
Brown responded to Johnson's comments after the Lakers shootaround on Saturday.
"Magic's a good guy and he's entitled to his opinion," Brown said. "My focus is on winning this game and that's it. All the other stuff, I don't have any control over the other stuff. I think I've told almost everybody here that's covered me, 'Hey, you guys got jobs to do.' Magic has a job to do. One of his jobs is to voice his opinion. He's a great guy. There's nothing for me to be concerned about there. I'm playing and coaching to win this game tonight and that's it."
In regards to the team's public statement, Brown said it was "nice of them to do that."
"I feel like I have a good relationship with (Lakers general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) and (Lakers executive vice president of player personnel) Jim Buss ... It's good," Brown said. "But I didn't ask for it. Anytime anybody gives you support, you like it but it wasn't necessary."
Brown said he has spent time with Johnson, a five-time champion with the Lakers who still holds the title of vice president with the team, at a "couple of functions" this year.
Brown signed a four-year deal worth approximately $18 million with the Lakers this past offseason, with the fourth year being a team option.
The 42-year-old Brown, who worked as an NBA analyst for ESPN during the 2010-11 season when he was out of coaching, coincidentally happened to conduct his first interview after agreeing to terms with the Lakers with Johnson during an ESPN telecast last May during the playoffs.
"I think ESPN probably pays (Johnson) seven figures, so he's got to make comments whenever he feels its necessary to make comments and he's got to make the comments that he feels are the truth or he believes in or whatever," Brown said with a smile. "He's free to say what he wants. It doesn't bother me."
Johnson, who last season suggested that Laker management should "blow up the team" after the Lakers were swept out of the second round by the Dallas Mavericks, also suggested that Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol would find themselves on the trade block if L.A. lost Game 7.
"Just because Magic Johnson says something, I'm not going to go running and talk to everybody that he talks about," Brown said. "He was a great player. From what I know, I don't know him very well, he seems like a great guy and ESPN pays him a lot of money to give his opinion and he gave his opinion and it's great. We're all big boys here and we'll survive ... I'll survive. Just because (he) said that, knock on wood, I'll still go home to my wife and my kids."
Lakers forward Metta World Peace, who will be returning to the court for Game 7 after serving a seven-game suspension for his hit on Oklahoma City's James Harden, avoided the topic after Saturday's shootaround rather than endorse his coach or chastise Johnson.
"That's a Magic Johnson opinion," World Peace said. "That's not my concern. I don't have anything to do with his opinion. We're in America first off; we have freedom of speech. Then, secondly, anybody is entitled to an opinion. That's one opinion and he's entitled to his opinion. I can't judge him for his opinion."
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