Brown takes Johnson's firing comment in stride
LOS ANGELES – Magic Johnson stirred up the NBA playoffs Friday night when he said Lakers coach Mike Brown would be fired if the team had lost its winner-take-all Game 7 to Denver on Saturday in their first-round series.
"They're going to run Mike Brown first out of town," Johnson said as an ESPN NBA analyst. "Then second will be (Andrew) Bynum. Then third will be (Pau) Gasol."
"His job will go," Johnson, who added about Brown. "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."
Hall of Famer Johnson sold his minority ownership stake in the Lakers, but is still a club vice president and a friend of the Buss family, which owns the team.
Johnson's on-air comments caught Lakers management off-guard, and the team issued a terse statement Saturday saying this was Johnson's opinion and "not made on behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers" and do not reflect management's position on Brown.
Brown has two more guaranteed years on his contract with a fourth-year option at an average of $4.5 million per season.
The only person who seemed unruffled by Johnson's comments was Brown, who was fired from the Cleveland Cavaliers two seasons ago after losing in the second round.
"Magic is a great guy, and if that's how he feels about me, great," Brown said before Saturday's game. "If that's how he feels about my performance as a coach, great. I'm not going to sit here and try to fight him. He's entitled to his opinion, and that's his opinion."
Brown had said the verbal commotion would not be a distraction as the Lakers prepared to avoid elimination. He said it's part of the "bunker mentality" he has preached since taking over from Phil Jackson last summer.
"ESPN pays him a lot of money to give his opinion, and that was his opinion, so great," Brown said. "We're all big boys here. We'll survive."
Brown won 272 games in five seasons with LeBron James and the Cavaliers, who reached the NBA finals in 2007. Brown was the NBA's coach of the year in 2009 after Cleveland went 66-16.
KARL BACKS BROWN
The Lakers backed Brown with a statement — and so did his opposing coach in this series.
Denver Nuggets coach George Karl said the Lakers had a "solid-to-good year" in Brown's first season coaching them and declared Johnson's statement "out of control."
Karl suggested it reflected ESPN's desire to spark controversy or be outlandish.
"Wild and crazy," Karl added about Johnson's comment before Game 7 Saturday night at Staples Center. "It's ESPN-ish. I think he got another year on his contract for that comment."
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