The two biggest cities on the NBA landscape, New York and Los Angeles, have storied franchises that are, to be kind, lousy. New York also has the Nets and L.A. claims the Clippers, but the Knicks and Lakers are what fans envision when they hear those cities.
But based on recent play, neither team is worth thinking about.
And that bothers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
“This is the worst for the two biggest cities, L.A. and New York. It’s not good for the league,” Johnson said Saturday during a signing event at Steiner Sports NBA All-Star Pop Up Shop in Midtown. “It’s great that everybody else is better, but we’ve got to have the Mecca of basketball, the city, playing well.
“We’ve got to have the Lakers being relevant as well,” Johnson said. “So I feel for Derek [Fisher] and Phil [Jackson] just as I feel for Jeanie [Buss] and the Lakers.”
Having coached at the end of the 1992-93 season, Johnson said he wished he could have supplied Fisher with some advice prior to the season.
“I probably would have told him beforehand: ‘Don’t do it,’?” Johnson said, laughing. “Worst thing I did. But Dr. [Jerry] Buss wanted me.”
But now that it’s too late, Johnson said he thinks Fisher simply should see what he has on hand, which will help formulate the blueprints for the draft and free agency. And in Johnson’s opinion, the Knicks are not as far off as most perceive.
“Everybody hopes for the same thing: Free agents come, they get a good draft pick and can be right back in the mix,” Johnson said. “People need to understand that they’re not too far away. If you get the right people, you’re right back in it.”
Yeah, Magic or Michael or Larry or …
“You’ve got to get a couple guys. One guy will make the game easier, but you need a couple guys and they’ll have the money,” Johnson said. “They’re developing the young guys. It’s, ‘Let’s give them experience so next year we know what we’ve got and then we know who we have to go out and get.’ It helps you decide who to draft, who to sign as free agents. That’s what Phil is looking at.”
Johnson and Jackson really never partnered L.A., but Johnson said he has “gotten to know Phil just working with the Lakers, and Derek is one of the greatest leaders we’ve had with the Lakers. So I know what their mind-set is. Nobody likes what’s going on.
“If it hurts the fans and the players, just think what they must be feeling after being winners,” Johnson said. “After winning 11 championships and playing here as a player and winning championships, you know Phil is hurting more than anybody in this whole situation.
“If Derek was going to have a perfect year to go through trial and error, here it is. It’s tough to be a champion, both of them, and experience this type of losing.”