Keeping to his recent pledge on Twitter, Magic Johnson resisted taking any digs on the Lakers.
Well, kind of.
Appearing Monday night on the Arsenio Hall Show, Johnson was asked several times about the Lakers, and the man of many opinions did his best to hold back.
Hall wondered in Johnson’s visits with President Barack Obama if the famed basketball fan ever asked, “Magic, what the hell is wrong with the Lakers?
“How did you know?” Johnson said, doubling over in laughter. “He definitely asked.”
So what did Johnson tell the leader of the free world?
“I made a promise I wouldn’t talk bad about the Lakers,” Johnson said.
“But you always tell the truth,” Hall replied. “I think most people appreciate that because others put a spin on it.”
“They don’t like when I tell the truth,” Johnson countered. “It’s been a tough year.”
Johnson has criticized the Lakers’ plenty this season, appearing on The Tonight Show and with a panel of Los Angeles Times editors and writers with an honest assessment on several topics. He criticized the Lakers’ decision to hire Mike D’Antoni as head coach last season over Phil Jackson, and pointed to D’Antoni’s fast-paced system as the reason why the Lakers rank 29th out of 30 NBA teams in total defense. Johnson suggested Kobe Bryant should sit out the rest of the season so he could fully heal his fractured left knee and left Achilles tendon, while improving the Lakers’ chances of securing an NBA lottery pick. Johnson also has repeatedly questioned the competence of vice president of player personnel Jim Buss.
Johnson resisted taking digs at Buss or D’Antoni, but made a sly reference as to why the Lakers have ranked 13th in the Western Conference amid never-ending injuries.
“We saw last night with the Seattle Seahawks shut down the greatest offense we’ve ever seen in the regular season in NFL history with what? Defense,” Johnson said, referring to the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos. “Defense wins championships. All I’m saying is make sure we get better on defense, just like the “Showtime Lakers.” We’d come on offense and razzle, dazzle. But then we’d come D you up. I’m hoping Coach D’Antoni gets the Lakers to get better on defense. If he can do that, we’ll be in a position to win championships.”
Johnson also reiterated his hope for Bryant to take his time with recovery. He’s expected to sit out at least two more weeks, but has vowed he will play when he’s medically cleared.
“I’d rather for him to come back healthy and 100 percent and come back next season where we’ll have a better team,” Johnson said. “Then we can make a better run hopefully for a championship.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org