Magic Johnson: Lakers may need deal
LOS ANGELES -- A day after Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said he would consider a trade amid the team's recent struggles, Magic Johnson said on Tuesday the Lakers need to make a deal to improve a team he believes isn't good enough to win a championship.
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"I think we have to," Johnson said. "We have to do something. The Lakers are not responding and two things showed me that -- the Miami Heat Christmas game and then the Boston Celtics game [on Sunday]. When you don't get up for your two biggest games during the season and you have flat performances, then you have to start looking at trade possibilities to improve the team and bring some energy to the team and bring some new life to the team."
Johnson, who sold his shares in the Lakers in October, made the comments after speaking at a news conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center to announce a naming rights deal for Farmers Field, a proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles next to Staples Center. Johnson is planning on becoming a part owner if Los Angeles gets a new NFL team.
"Unfortunately we're looking old and we're playing old," Johnson said. "We're not responding to the more athletic teams and the quicker teams. So we must change something. I think we have to now look at this team and maybe say we're not good enough. Things might have to change."
Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said Kupchak's comments were rather obvious.
"If we weren't always looking to benefit our team, we wouldn't be doing our business," Jackson said after shootaround Tuesday afternoon in preparation for a game against the Rockets. "So, it was a good calling card that Mitch threw out there."
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Magic Johnson says the struggling and unresponsive Lakers are not focused and not playing defense, and they need to do something, maybe even a trade, to get it together.
When asked to clarify what he meant by the phrase "calling card," Jackson said, "The door's open for business."
The 11-time championship winning coach did not feel the Lakers have fallen into a dire situation requiring drastic changes, even though L.A. has lost four out of its past seven games and already had four- and three-game losing streaks earlier in the season.
Jackson said the thinking on the Lakers' part about their situation is different from when the Orlando Magic had lost five out of six games in December and management decided to overhaul their roster, making deals to acquire Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas while shipping out Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Marcin Gortat.
"We're obviously not happy with the way we've played recently, that's the last couple losses that we've had, but the reality is we have a team that is pretty experienced and knows how to play in the playoffs so I doubt if we'd do a multiple-change [trade or something] that big," Jackson said.
During his pregame comments before Tuesday's game against the Rockets, Jackson strengthened his stance.
"I don't think we need to make a trade," Jackson said and later added, "I'm still prepared in any series to put this team against anybody."
Jackson pointed to speed as the one aspect of the game his lineup is lacking and pointed to Matt Barnes' absence (right knee surgery) as one reason for the Lakers' slowing down. Barnes is expected to be out another three to five weeks. Jackson does not anticipate juggling the starting lineup to infuse faster players like Steve Blake and Shannon Brown in place of Derek Fisher or Ron Artest, for example.
"I haven't even considered a change in the starting lineup," Jackson said. "I'll mess with minutes, but right now ... I'm pretty set with what we're doing."
"It's part of our business at the end of the day," said the 12-year veteran. "One has the right to feel like that."
Arash Markazi is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.
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