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Magic Johnson
Basketball legend turned business mogul, Magic Johnson is looking to join the Detroit Pistons front office.
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Magic in talks about ownership of Detroit Pistons

By Scott Howard-Cooper,
Posted Aug 13 2010 4:08PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Michigan native Magic Johnson, continuing to look for roles that give him a larger presence in a franchise than the current minority ownership in the Lakers, expressed interest Friday in being part of a group that buys the Pistons or at least in joining his hometown team in a front-office capacity.

Johnson stressed he has not had any formal talks about either possibility, with other potential suitors or the Davidson family that put the team on the market, and that he would not be a majority owner because it would mean relocating from Los Angeles, the very reason some close to him note the Pistons are not a realistic match. But Johnson told at the press conference leading up to Hall of Fame ceremonies tonight that "some people had called me and wanted me to [know] if I'm interested in being a part of a group to own the Pistons."

The Lansing, Mich., native who attended Michigan State was involved with a group that in recent months made a serious bid to buy the Warriors, before Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber completed the purchase for an announced $450 million, a record for an NBA team. Johnson would have sold what is believed to be a five-percent stake in the Lakers for a larger, but unknown portion, in Golden State, while still living in L.A. and making the easy jet commute to the Bay Area.

The Davidson family is selling the Pistons after the death of patriarch Bill Davidson. One of Detroit's most prominent businessmen, Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, said he is interested in adding the NBA club to his portfolio, amid speculation the Pistons would leave suburban Auburn Hills to play in a downtown arena Ilitch wants to build. Karen Davidson, Bill's widow, has said she expects an agreement on a sale to be in place by the start of the regular season.

"Somebody back there has to be the majority owner. Be the owner," said Johnson, who would have to sell his interest in the Lakers to work for or own another team.. "That wouldn't be me. But if Ilitch or somebody -- you've got a good guy back there already in Joe Dumars. If somebody said, 'Hey, can you come and think about helping Joe Dumars?' then I would think about it.

"Just like the Lakers. It's not the full [ownership]. You just get a little piece. But then you are involved in the basketball, how the decisions are made."

Asked if he is interested in ownership or management, the current Lakers vice president said, "Either way."

But would you have a conversation about joining the front office if it did not include an ownership stake?

"Oh, yeah," Johnson said. "If it's the right situation."

That aspect seems unlikely. While Johnson is clearly open to leaving the only NBA home he has known, it would take a unique opportunity to sell what appears to be a money-making venture and what by all indications is a superb relationship with Jerry Buss. Breaking with the Lakers without an ownership stake somewhere else is very difficult to imagine.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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