Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson, is certainly not shy about voicing his criticism of the team that he led to five NBA Championships in the eighties. This past season, Johnson was all over the club’s first-year head coach Mike Brown, putting a lot of blame on the squad’s bench boss, for the team’s lackluster effort in the Playoffs.
In his role as an NBA analyst for ESPN, the former point guard went as far as saying that Brown should be fired by Los Angeles, if the team failed to defeat the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the Post Season. The Lakers would win that series in seven games, but they went home after the second round, when the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated them by a 4-1 margin.
The “Los Angeles Times” caught up with Johnson on Tuesday, at Dodger Stadium, as the part-owner of the Dodgers franchise was watching batting practice, before Los Angeles hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks. When Magic was asked about Lakers starting center Andrew Bynum, he replied “I think Bynum is not going to reach his potential. What I’m saying is Bynum has to take the next step. If he takes the next step, he should stay. He will be a dominant center. But he hasn’t done it yet.”
Regular readers of these pages, are aware that I have slammed the member of the Basketball Hall Of Fame, for his criticisms at times, however in this case, I believe that Johnson’s evaluation on the Lakers center is spot-on. Although Bynum, did have a breakout campaign this past season, as he averaged 18.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game and was a starter for the Western Conference, it was just one season. The big man has played seven seasons in the Association and his number never approached last season’s figures, in any of his earlier campaigns.
A big part of the reason that Bynum did have such an outstanding season, was he remained healthy for most of the campaign, for one of the few times since entering the NBA when Los Angeles took the center with the tenth pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Johnson is correct in that Bynum showed what he was capable of this past season; however one year of success does not make you an elite center.
Johnson was then asked to compare the Lakers center to Orlando Magic All-Star man in the middle, Dwight Howard. He responded “Dwight is better than Bynum. Everybody knows that. I want what’s best for the organization. Dwight would be amazing with Steve Nash and Kobe. Finally Kobe will have a chance to rest on offense.”
One has to wonder if he realizes the Lakers will most likely not be too pleased to hear Magic’s latest comments; as they are hoping to workout a trade that could send Bynum to the Magic in a deal that would give the team Howard. Orlando General Manager Rob Hennigan, was most likely not more enthused about completing a Lakers trade, after getting wind of Johnson’s evaluation; which could end up hurting the team that he says he loves.