By Greg Beacham
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOS ANGELES _ Magic Johnson wants the Los Angeles Lakers to lose every game this season for their own good.
Coach Byron Scott thinks they’re better off learning how to win, and that’s just what they did several hours after Magic’s latest pointed comments.
Johnson discussed the struggling Lakers on Tuesday at a promotional appearance in New York, and the Hall of Famer dished out some blunt thoughts on the 16-time champion franchise’s future.
“I hope the Lakers lose every game,” the former Lakers point guard said. “Because if you’re going to lose, lose. And I’m serious. If you’re going to lose, you’ve got to lose, because you can’t be in the middle of the pack. You either have to be great, or you’ve got to be bad to get a good pick.”
A few hours later, Scott responded to his former Lakers backcourt mate by stressing the importance of establishing a winning climate surrounding Kobe Bryant. Scott says tanking wouldn’t be entertained by the Lakers, whose 6-16 record is tied for the second-worst in the Western Conference.
“That’s easy to say, but when you’re behind the scenes and you’re in the trenches and you’re coaching, that’s not something that you want to do,” Scott said. “We’ve got to go out here and win every game possible. I mean, if you lose games, that’s one thing. But to go out and try to lose, that’s a different story. I think that sends a message to those guys in there that it’s going back to that losing mentality. We don’t we want to create that here.”
Bryant scored 32 points in the Lakers’ 98-95 win over Sacramento on Tuesday night, snapping a three-game skid. Kobe also wants no part of Magic’s plan.
“He’s used to being an owner,” Bryant said with a laugh. “He’s the owner of the Dodgers. He was an owner of the Lakers. That’s speaking from an owner’s perspective. … I think the fans _ hopefully some of them _ are smart enough to understand his perspective as an owner. I certainly am. Magic is one of the most competitive players of all-time. He doesn’t want to lose. From where I’m sitting, I just look at his point of view.”
Scott also laughed off the extemporaneous comments by Johnson, his good friend. Johnson was viciously critical of former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni in the previous two seasons, but has pledged to be supportive to Scott and the current team.
Under D’Antoni, the Lakers finished last season 27-55 _ the most losses in franchise history and their worst winning percentage in more than a half-century.
While longing for losses, Johnson also expressed optimism about the Lakers’ salary cap space next summer and their long-term future. He also knows another top draft pick could help: The Lakers chose Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick last year, but the teenager broke his leg on opening night and was lost for the season.
“The Lakers are in a good space, too (for) next summer if they can sign or trade for a talented guy,” Johnson said. “So I’d rather be all the way bad than be in the middle like we were for a couple of those years we were getting the eighth, 10th, 12th pick. You can’t get better by doing that.”
Scott would rather return the Lakers to success the old-fashioned way.
“If you go out here and play hard, you’ll hopefully get rewarded in the right way,” Scott said. “You can get the type of player that you want, that can come in here and help you the next year in the draft, and free agent-wise. But the last thing on my mind is losing games right now. At least on purpose.”