- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- Magic Johnson is thrilled with the Los Angeles Dodgers new right-hander, Zack Greinke. He's less than thrilled, however, with the way the Los Angeles Lakers have been using their power forward Pau Gasol.
Two teams, two different sports. Johnson owns one of them, but he'll always love the other one -- and express his opinion.
"When Gasol was on that (low) block, he averaged 18 points, he shot 53 percent from the field and he still is the best passing big man in the game," Johnson said Tuesday, shortly after introducing Greinke at a news conference at Dodger Stadium. "But you have him at the free-throw line? That makes no sense. That's not his game.
"His game is to catch it on the low block, face his man, one dribble left or right. He's got great moves. But now all the blame is on his shoulders, like he's not performing well? He can't take that. That's not who he is.
"They've got to put him in a winning situation, because once Gasol starts to play well, I think the team will start to play well. Then you come in with Steve Nash. But you've got to get Gasol going. Gasol, to me, is the key to this whole thing. If you continue to have him at the 3-point line, he's not going to perform well."
Johnson said that while he's staying patient with new coach Mike D'Antoni, at least until Nash returns from a fractured leg, he feels D'Antoni should adjust his system to better fit the Lakers personnel.
"I've gotta adjust my system a little bit if I'm the coach. That's all," Johnson said. "His system doesn't fit the talent that the Lakers have. You can't run with this team. Who are the runners? You've got one guy who can get up and down the court and that's Kobe (Bryant).
"Ron (Metta World Peace)? Love him, but he's slow. Both our big men are not fast guys. So we gotta say, 'Maybe I should scale it back. I run, if the basket is there, we take it.' Just like us in 'Showtime,' we ran and if we got the layup, good. If not, Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), come here, bail us out. That's what you do. That's basketball."
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Gasol was fifth in the NBA in post-up points in 2010-11. He was ninth last season and 10th in 2009-10.
This season, he's 27th with just 2.7 points per game out of the post.
"I don't understand it," Johnson said. "The man (Gasol) is an All-Star. He's seven feet tall for real. The guy can play basketball. He's one of the smartest players in the league. That's why we got Zack (Grienke). He's one of the smartest players in baseball. He watches film. He's serious about his craft. That's what we wanted. He can really help the young players."
While Johnson admitted to being frustrated with the Lakers' woes, he didn't think another big change or shakeup was the right solution.
"No. No. No. The season has already been disrupted one time," he said. "Another change would just blow the team up. You'd lose everybody. We don't need another change.
"What he needs to do is say, 'Look, I have a certain philosophy but I don't have the type of players to play that scheme and that system. But I do have two of the best seven-footers in the game.'
"It's a long season. We can't count out coach D'Antoni or the Lakers. We want to see signs that this thing is turning around. He's waiting for Steve Nash to return. We'll wait and see what happens when Steve Nash returns. We're all spoiled. I'm the first to admit that I'm spoiled with the success of the Lakers. You sit there and you say, 'Man, this can't happen to our Lakers.' "
1dAlok Pattani, ESPN Stats & Information
1dOhm Youngmisuk and Ian Begley
1dDan Le Batard