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Magic Johnson argues Jerry Buss needs to "blow this team up" and make drastic changes to roster during offseason

May 7, 2011 |  4:05 pm

26618943Even with the odds stacked against them, the Lakers are publicly expressing optimism about coming back from an 0-3 deficit in their Western Conference semifinal series against the Dallas Mavericks.

But don't count Magic Johnson as one of them. The Lakers great argued as an ESPN NBA analyst Saturday that the Lakers, and owner Jerry Buss, will need to make serious changes to their veteran-heavy roster during the off-season. Johnson's most pointed suggestion involved the Lakers' trading for Dwight Howard,  even if it means giving up  Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom.

"Dr. Buss has a lot of work to do," said Johnson. "He's probably going to have to blow this team up after the season if the Lakers lose this series because you have to come back with some fresh faces. You have to pick between the two big men with which one you keep and then you trade the other one."

Johnson didn't aim his criticism solely at the Lakers' front line, arguing that everybody outside of Kobe Bryant should be considered trade bait in what will be an uncertain off-season. In addition to the strong possibility Dallas will eliminate the Lakers, the 2010-11 season will be the last for Coach Phil Jackson. Reserves Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown can exercise player options to stay next season, with Barnes telling The Times' Mike Bresnahan in March he planned to do that and Brown conceding he's open to opting out. And of course, the cloud surrounding the league's expiring collective bargaining agreement on June 30 weighs heavily on all NBA teams. 

Presuming the Lakers are eliminated, Johnson anticipates a very busy off-season. 

"The Lakers have two problems," said Johnson, who sold his 4.5% ownership stake in the Lakers  to billionaire season ticket-holder Patrick Soon-Shiong in October but has kept his title as vice president. "They're too slow and they have no athletes. This is an athletic league now. When you think about all the teams that are in the playoffs right now, they all can run fast and jump high.

"Sometimes you can be together too long," he continued. "This group has been probably together too long."

Even though the Lakers will likely fall to the Dallas Mavericks, possibly as soon as Sunday, Johnson's connection to the team makes his comments premature and disrespectful. He may be trying to motivate the team. He may be sharing his honest opinion. And he may be foreshadowing the Lakers' offseason plans. But wait until the season is actually over. For now, give the Lakers at least a chance to salvage what so far has been a disappointing postseason.  

--Mark Medina

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Photo: Magic Johnson. Credit: Los Angeles Times