Magic Johnson says Kobe, Gasol, Bynum need to step up
The Clippers are coming, the Clippers are coming!
In case the Clippers' dismantling of the Lakers on Monday night didn't set off warning bells for Lakers fans, Magic Johnson willingly helped the process by providing what the Lakers needed for a winning season.
Granted, it was only an exhibition game that the Clippers won Monday, 114-95, but Johnson said Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum needed to have incredible seasons for the Lakers to excel.
"What Kobe has to look to now is look to get Bynum and Gasol going," Johnson said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. "He’s going to need help, especially this season more than any season for them to be really one of the best teams win a championship. Those two guys have got to have banner years.
"At 16 years now ... we can’t expect Kobe to carry the load the way he used to. Night in and night out he can’t [guard] the best player on the other team and then expect to go out and still get 25 to 30 points."
Bryant also needed to fill the friendly teammate role held by Lamar Odom the last seven seasons. Odom was traded last week to Dallas.
"I think he's going to have to be more of an emotional leader," Johnson said. "Not just a game-time leader to score points and play defense. He’s going to have to be a locker-room leader. He’s going to have to really pick guys up and probably do stuff he’s never really done before, and that’s really in practice get these guys going, in the locker room get these guys going because the one guy that did that is now gone, and that’s Lamar Odom. You’re going to miss him in the practices and in the locker room and on the airplane and on the buses. Who’s going to replace him being that leader? The way I see it, it has to be Kobe."
He also said the Lakers should be motivated by, yep, the Clippers, calling them and Miami the two most exciting teams in the NBA.
"It’s going to take a while for the Clippers to take over L.A.," Johnson said. "That’s not going to happen over a year or two. The Lakers have won too many championships and Laker fans will not just leave the Lakers. They are very loyal. So the Clippers have got a lot to prove still.
"But If I’m looking across town, that’s got to be driving Kobe. That should drive Gasol and Bynum and those guys and Derek Fisher to say hey, ‘No way I’m going to let them take over Los Angeles and this city.'"
In Johnson's mind, Oklahoma City wins the Western Conference, followed by the Lakers or Dallas, and then the Clippers.
He loved the Clippers' getting Chris Paul but didn't fault the Lakers, who had a trade for him rejected by the NBA.
"It wasn’t like they didn’t go to work," Johnson said. "They did make a trade that was rescinded so you have to still give them a ‘B’ for effort. An ‘A’ would have been great because they would have ended up with the guy. They targeted Chris Paul, they targeted Dwight Howard.
"They have to wait and see what happens at the trade deadline and they have to wait and see what happens after the season. I would have been upset if they hadn’t tried to trade for one of the superstars who were available, but they did try."
They obviously are what they are, which isn't a team with Paul or Howard.
"They now have to figure out how do they win with the guys that they have," Johnson said. "If Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol don’t have their best seasons, it’s going to be a tough season for the Lakers. If they do have banner seasons, then I think they’ll be right there playing for the Western Conference championship. If they don’t dominate, it’s going to be a long season for not only for the Lakers but Lakers fans as well."
Photo: Magic Johnson. Credit: Eliot Kamenitz / Associated Press.