Hall of Famer upset with effort

Originally Published: June 12, 2004
Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Magic Johnson doesn't like what he sees from the Los Angeles Lakers, and he decided to speak up about it Saturday.

"I think the Lakers had a mind-set that was disrespectful to the Pistons. They thought it was going to be easy. That is not the case," Johnson said. "Unless they come out and play very hard, with the same level of intensity as the Pistons, this series will be over."

Johnson, a vice president and part-owner of the Lakers, was not displaying his trademark grin as he exited The Palace on Thursday night following the Lakers' 20-point loss in Game 3.

At a news conference to promote his basketball camp, Johnson heavily criticized the Lakers.

"I am angry. You have to compete. And we're not competing," he said. "You can just see the Lakers' frustration. No one is welcoming anyone to the bench. Guys are sitting there, wandering off into the crowd, defeated. We've got to get that look off our faces and play basketball the way it's supposed to be played. If not, the series won't get back to Los Angeles."

The series resumes Sunday night with the Detroit Pistons leading the best-of-seven series 2-1.

"I have eight rings and I want nine," Johnson said. "My anger is that we haven't competed in this series. I don't know what's going on. I don't know what the mind-set is. But this is just unacceptable."

Johnson also singled out Karl Malone and Gary Payton for criticism.

Malone had an altercation with a heckler prior to Game 3.

"You don't put your finger in a fan's face. That's unacceptable. Lakers don't do that," Johnson said of Malone, who claimed the heckler spat on him. "I don't care what he said. He has been to two Finals. I've been to nine. Do you think the Celtics fans didn't say things I didn't like?

Payton has been outplayed by Detroit's Chauncey Billups.

"Gary Payton is 35 years old and isn't the same Gary Payton he was 10 years ago. He has to accept that," Johnson said. "Gary Payton has had a lot of great, wide-open looks and hasn't knocked them down. That doesn't change if you're in the triangle or a 1-4 or what. Wide-open looks are wide-open looks. He shot an airball just the other day, wide-open. Hell, nobody was 10 feet from him.

"He got it, caught it, wide-open, airball. You've got to make that shot. You've got to make plays. Gary's problem isn't on offense. It's on defense. Billups is using him up."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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