Magic Johnson questioned new coach Mike D’Antoni’s system with the slumping Los Angeles Lakers, saying “it doesn’t fit the talent the Lakers have.”
The Lakers (9-12) were 4-7 in 11 games since D’Antoni took over from the fired Mike Brown going into the opener of a four-game trip on Tuesday night in Cleveland.
“I’m not down on him yet as a coach,” Johnson said earlier in the day at a Dodger Stadium appearance, although he criticized D’Antoni’s plan to make the Lakers into a running team.
“You can’t run with these guys,” he said. “There’s one guy who can get up and down the court and that’s Kobe [Bryant]. You’ve got to take that ball inside. That’s how you win games.”
Johnson said the Lakers have two of the best 7-footers in the NBA in Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, and the offense should revolve around Gasol, who missed his fifth consecutive game Tuesday night with tendinitis in his knees. Point guard Steve Nash has missed 20 games with a broken left leg he sustained on Oct. 31.
Johnson called Gasol “the best passing big man in the NBA.”
“His game is catch it on the low block and face his man,” the former Lakers star said. “The first question should’ve been, ‘Where do you like it because that’s where I’m going to give it to you.’ ”
When it comes to the Lakers’ dismal defense, Johnson agrees with D’Antoni and Bryant.
“We can score points but the defense is breaking down,” he said. “We have to correct our defense. Every night guys have to come with passion and urgency.”
Johnson said he thinks that once Gasol starts playing well, the Lakers will follow suit with Nash’s help.
Davis back with Hornets
New Orleans Hornets rookie and top overall draft pick Anthony Davis was cleared to return to action on Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards.
Davis has missed 11 games because of what trainers called a stress reaction in his left ankle, a condition which could have led to a fracture if not rested and treated.
The rookie out of Kentucky was off to a strong start to his NBA career before being sidelined, averaging 16 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game in six games. He also missed time earlier this season with a concussion.
During his most recent 11-game absence, the Hornets were 2-9.
New Orleans still awaits the return of guard Eric Gordon, who has not yet played this season because of a right knee injury.
Lopez out with foot injury
Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez missed a sixth consecutive game because of a sprained right foot, sitting out Tuesday night against the New York Knicks.
Lopez won’t travel to Toronto for the Nets’ game today, and Johnson says he will get more treatment and work out Thursday.