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Scott Howard-Cooper

To run an NBA team, Magic Johnson would have to spend less time with his non-basketball empire.
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Magic as Warriors' boss? Don't count on it

Posted Mar 25 2010 9:47AM

Magic Johnson sends word: there is no story. But what a moment of stars aligning to spark speculation that he is considering getting out of the Lakers business. The Warriors are for sale, his Los Angeles base to Oakland is an easy jet commute, 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov has been linked to Golden State changing hands, and Johnson has a long and prominent connection with the health-club chain. Plus, Magic's hometown Pistons are available, even if officially there's no sign on the lawn, and buddy Michael Jordan just bought the Bobcats. Amazing coincidence of well-timed developments.

There is a difference between Magic and Michael, though. Johnson, who owns about 5 percent of the Lakers, is a major player in the business world and probably would have to choose between spending less time in the corporate world and letting someone else run his NBA operation. And that second option is not going to happen. Other owners may have team presidents to handle day-to-day matter, but Magic Johnson would not be watching any basketball stake from a distance. He just may not have the time to watch it up close.


One of Jordan's first comments after closing on the Bobcats sale, by the way, was to say he wouldn't hold Larry Brown to his coaching contract if Brown wanted to leave for the 76ers or Clippers. That just made the possible clear path to L.A. official. While the Philadelphia angle is viable because his family stayed there rather than move to Charlotte, and because the Sixers may soon be looking for a coach and personnel boss, speculation within the league is that a Clippers reunion is more likely. Only Brown, talented and mercurial, could have a job on a team finishing up the best season in its history and be called the wild card for openings on two coasts.

Jamaal Wilkes is a Hall of Fame finalist again and overlooked again, an impact player on some of the greatest teams in college and professional history who too often was lost because he rode shotgun to historic figures and carried himself in humble, understated tones. Whether or not he receives good news when inductees are announced April 5, nothing changes the fact that Silk was an important member of four championships with the Showtime Lakers and Warriors and two NCAA titles in the UCLA dynasty, along with being Rookie of the Year in 1975, a good defender and a high-scoring forward. And if that isn't enough, John Wooden once said that if athletics, academics and citizenship were all taken into consideration, Wilkes might have been the best of his Bruins. Gulp. Said Bill Walton, a college teammate and still a close friend: "Jamaal Wilkes is one of those truly unique players."

Tough decision ahead for John Salmons. He has a player option at $5.8 million for next season and dislikes the idea of walking away from that kind of money to test free agency in a troubled economy, but the major impact and growing spotlight since being traded from Chicago to Milwaukee makes this the ideal time to hit the market. The Bucks like him so much they are willing to talk about a new deal, even if it means eating away at the cap space being built for summer 2011.

The labor situation is the other consideration, for Salmons, for Amar'e Stoudemire with the same internal debate and for anyone weighing whether to become a free agent in July or take the guaranteed money now and go for the next contract in '11. The financial squeeze after this season may be nothing compared to life with a possible lockout and/or the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. A lot of guys will be, or at least should be, considering the calendar as much as the stat sheet when making a decision.

Never mind what happens to the Lakers if they had to play a West postseason series without home-court advantage. The issue, as L.A. regains its footing to take control of the conference race all over again, is actually what becomes of two primary challengers given the same situation. The Nuggets are 17-19 on the road and still have stops in Toronto, Orlando, Dallas, Oklahoma City and Phoenix. The Jazz are 18-17 away from home and play six of the final 10 away from EnergySolutions Arena. The Lakers, by comparison, are 21-13.

Two wins in the final 11 games to avoid the record, Nets. Two wins in 11 games against 10 opponents, with the Bulls twice and the Pistons, Wizards and Pacers once each.

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

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