Champions look for another star

Lakers attempt dynasty

Posted: Wednesday, June 21, 2000

LOS ANGELES -- Magic Johnson believes the Los Angeles Lakers may be one star short of a dynasty.

Johnson, the key player on five Lakers' championship teams in the 1980s, isn't sure the 2000 NBA champions have all the right stuff to dominate this decade -- at least not yet.

''I think we have most of the key parts, but it depends on how the team is changed,'' Johnson, now a team vice president and minority owner, said after the Lakers beat Indiana 116-111 Monday night to win their first NBA title since 1988.

''You know this isn't the same team you're going to see next season. You know we're not going to be afraid to pull the trigger.''

The Lakers won the championship despite weak spots in their roster, so executive vice president Jerry West is expected to wheel and deal during the offseason.

A scary thought for the rest of the NBA's teams: the Lakers with a scoring power forward (P.J. Brown, Brian Grant?) to make opponents pay for double- and triple-teaming Shaquille O'Neal. Throw in a new long-range sharpshooter and a big-bodied backup center, and the Lakers certainly would look like a dynasty.

''Jerry West has always done an excellent job with this ballclub and I'm sure he's going to make the right decisions again,'' Kobe Bryant said.

Johnson said there was really not much comparison between the current Lakers and the team of the 1980s, which he believes was considerably better.

''They're still learning how to win. We had three superstars -- Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), James Worthy and myself -- and we knew how to put teams away, knew how to win,'' he said.

Glen Rice, a free agent who made $7 million this year and wants more for his next contract, may be one player who won't be back. Rice, 33, never lived up to his job as the third option -- behind O'Neal and Bryant -- in the Lakers' offense.

Backup center John Salley and reserve Brian Shaw also are free agents, and both are expendable. The Lakers' starting lineup this season was, outside of O'Neal and Bryant, a bit of a patchwork affair that included 35-year-old Ron Harper, who won three championship rings in Chicago, and 36-year-old A.C. Green, who won two with Los Angeles in the '80s.

Larry Bird, a high-scoring forward who led Boston to three championships, believes the Lakers have a good chance of being the league's best team over the next few years for one reason -- O'Neal.

''He's just so dominating that they have an opportunity here to do something great for a number of years,'' said Bird, who did what he said he was going to and stepped down after three seasons as the Pacers' coach following their Game 6 loss.

Chick Hearn, the Lakers' broadcaster for the past 40 years, said this team isn't as good as the ones in the 1980s, or the 1972 champions led by Wilt Chamberlain and West.

''They're very good, but they are not great yet,'' Hearn said of Shaq and Kobe's team.

Robert Horry, with the Houston Rockets when they won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995, knows how precarious life at the top can be.

''Because we won it, everybody will jump on the bandwagon,'' he said. ''But if something happens next year, we have a little lull, they'll all jump off.''

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