The Lakers are at a crossroads.
They’re either a game away from finally meeting the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals, or a game away from the end of their season. Should the Lakers lose Saturday in Game 7 of their first-round series against the Denver Nuggets, Magic Johnson has a definite idea on what will happen next.
“They’re going to run Mike Brown first out of town,” Johnson said as an ESPN NBA analyst Friday. “Then second will be [Andrew] Bynum. Then third will be [Pau] Gasol.”
Whether that will happen remains unclear.
The Lakers’ front office has publicly praised Brown’s performance as head coach in his first season. Brown, who makes an average of $4.5 million a year, has two more guaranteed years followed by a team option. The Times’ Mike Bresnahan talked to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who indicated in March his intention to exercise the $16.1-million option for the last year of Bynum’s contract. Gasol had been the subject of endless trade rumors since the Lakers’ attempt to trade him for Chris Paul. The Lakers forward is owed $38.3 million for the next two seasons.
ESPN analyst Chris Broussard expressed skepticism that Brown’s job security is in jeopardy, but Johnson stayed insistent.
“His job will go,” Johnson said. “The Lakers are about championships. That’s what the Lakers are about. If they lose this game, Mike Brown, I bet you, will not be sitting there.”
Johnson sold his 4.5% stake in the Lakers in 2010, but he remains on the payroll as a vice president. He’s also become part of Guggenheim Baseball Management, the new Dodgers ownership group. But Johnson hasn’t shied away from sharing his opinions on the Lakers.
Before the Dallas Mavericks swept the Lakers in the 2011 NBA Western Conference semifinals, Johnson vowed for Lakers owner Jerry Buss to “blow this team up.” That involved being open to trading anyone except Kobe Bryant. In mid-February, Johnson argued executive Jim Buss needed to meet with Bryant so he’d become more informed about the front office’s plans. Johnson also suggested Jim Buss has more power in the front office over Kupchak, an assertion the Lakers General Manager later disputed to The Times’ Bresnahan.
“Mike Brown will not be coaching the Lakers if they lose this game,” Johnson said. “There would be so much pressure on Jim Buss and the Laker organization to get rid of him."
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