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Magic Johnson On How To Fix The Lakers: "Who Are We? What’s Our DNA? We Have To Figure That Out."

Magic Johnson On How To Fix The Lakers: "Who Are We? What’s Our DNA? We Have To Figure That Out."

The Los Angeles Lakers are having a challenging season in the NBA, struggling to find consistency in a competitive Western Conference, where the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz are the top teams. 

Meanwhile, the Purple and Gold are trying to get over their bad situation and become the dangerous team everybody expected them to become before the start of the season. After landing Russell Westbrook in a trade with the Washington Wizards and adding several veterans to the roster, they looked incredibly good on paper. 

Well, things haven't worked out so far, as inconsistency and injuries have hurt the team's chances to thrive. The Westbrook experiment isn't successful at all, yet they insist on keeping the player on the roster at least until the end of the season. 

Many fans, analysts, and former players have criticized this team, and Magic Johnson has been very vocal about this. The 5x NBA champion recently sat down with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated to discuss a variety of topics. Being one of the greatest Lakers ever, and somebody who worked for the franchise, Magic was inquired about the team's current situation. 

What are your thoughts on the Lakers now and your hopes for them the rest of the season?

Who are we? What’s our DNA? We have to figure that out. Once we figure out who we are and what we do, we have to do [it] on a nightly basis to win, right? How do we have to play? That’s what we have to embrace and find out. Are we going to be this team that, on a nightly basis, we going to go up and down, we going to run? Are we going to be a set offense and feature LeBron and AD [Anthony Davis]?

We just have to figure out who we are. And what we really going to have to do is really buckle down on the defensive end. But I would say this: It’s been a struggle for the Lakers most of the season, and then that Golden State game [Feb. 12], I think they found something. [Wednesday] is really a key to me. Did they find something and will that translate against Utah? [Note: The Lakers beat the Jazz 106-101 Wednesday night.] I told LeBron this at the Super Bowl. I said, ‘Man, I think if you guys play like that …’ I said, ‘You should have won the game [vs. Golden State], up six, two minutes to go.’

We didn’t get those two offensive rebounds which [Warriors guard] Klay [Thompson] turned into six points, basically. They kicked it back out to him, and he hit those two big 3s, and the crowd got going, and Golden State from there just played great. But if we play like that, I said, ‘Man, we could be scary.’ Because that was probably our best game, and we looked like we knew how we were going to win, right?

Before, it was a struggle with the Big Three. They didn’t really figure it out. But it seemed like that [Warriors] game they figured it out. I’m going to see tonight, and I will say this: If they can figure it out, I tell you this, nobody’s going to want to face them because one thing about LeBron in that playoff, man, you know he comes with it when it’s the biggest moments.

If AD can find his jump shot, he’s been doing the other things well, he can get that back. Because remember, every year before this he’s been shooting great, but this year he’s been struggling from the outside. Everything else has been good, so he’s just got to find that, and we still got time. You still have what, 20-something games to go, whatever it is, 30 to go? They still have time to really get it together.

Magic then remembered that during the 1990/91 NBA season, the Lakers lived a similar situation, but they were able to turn things around and reach the NBA Finals, where Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls dismantled them. 

I remember ’91, new coach, Mike Dunleavy. We had some new guys. We had Sam Perkins, Kareem had retired. Everybody said, ‘Oh, it’s over for the Lakers.’ We never found our game until the last month of the season. We finally knew how to play with Sam, James and I, and we incorporated him, and man, we got rolling, man.

We rolled every team that was supposed to beat us, Golden State, all those guys. We beat all of them, and then Portland, who had the best record, we beat them to go to the championship. Because everybody thought they [Trail Blazers] were going to be the ones who win the championship because they had the best record in the league that year. We found our game and got rolling and it was on.

This team, we know they got talent. Now if they can just find their game, I tell you, they’re going to pose a lot of problems for teams. They just got to find it. They just got to find their game. Also, Russell [Westbrook], just be comfortable with how you have to play now. You can’t worry about how you played before, because that doesn’t matter. It’s about how can I help this team win and what do I have to do to help this team win.

This interview was conducted before the Lakers announced that Davis will miss four weeks with a mid-foot sprain.

The Lakers have a lot of work to do to become legit contenders this season. Not only the players but the coaching staff needs to make some adjustments if they want this to work out. 

They didn't make any moves ahead of the trade deadline and will focus now on the buyout market. That could be a big opportunity for them, but nobody believes they will find the key to win it all this season with a free agent.