SAN ANTONIO -- Magic Johnson always speaks his mind when discussing the Lakers. Always.
So it wasn't surprising to hear him pick them apart, specifically Dwight Howard and Mike D'Antoni, in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
Will the Lakers be a better team if they re-sign the soon-to-be free agent Howard for five years and $118 million?
"I don’t know. It just depends on who they put around him," said Johnson, an ABC analyst and unpaid Lakers vice president. "You have to have some great players around him, and then Dwight Howard has to get better. I’m not happy with this Dwight Howard but if he gets into the gym … and gets some go-to moves, it will be a wise decision to sign him. He has a lot of work to do this summer on his offensive skills. He's always been a great rebounder and shot-blocker."
Howard can sign with another team for four years and $88 million. He will choose between the Lakers, Dallas and Houston when free agency begins July 1.
D'Antoni, meanwhile, has some work to do, too, Johnson said.
"I don't like Coach D'Antoni's system in terms of him not coaching defense. I just think that he has to do a better job defensively," Johnson said. "No matter what he says, his system is to outscore other teams. Both these [Finals] teams have proven you've got to be great defensively if you're going to win a championship. Coach D'Antoni's going to have to change his approach because he didn't win a championship in Phoenix … they didn't get it done in New York and he sure didn't show us that he could get it done with the Lakers yet. He has to concentrate in the defensive end just as much as he emphasizes offense."
Howard and D'Antoni have to do some work with each other, Johnson added, assuming they're reunited with the Lakers in the fall. D'Antoni has rarely, if ever, featured his offenses around post players.
"If they sign Dwight Howard back, [D'Antoni and Howard] have to get on the same page, and last season they were not on the same page," Johnson said.