Magic Johnson supports Bryant, calls for trade

Lakers legend Magic Johnson supports Kobe Bryant’s team-building gesture with Pau Gasol, but Johnson endorses the Lakers making some trade before the March 15 deadline.

“If they can make a trade, they’ll be right there competing for the Western Conference championship,” Johnson said. “But if they don’t, I don’t think they’ll compete.”

Johnson made his comments on a conference call for ESPN. He is now an ESPN analyst after a long career leading the Lakers and even being a part-owner.

Johnson said Bryant deserves some clear communication from Lakers management — especially Lakers vice president Jim Buss — about the direction of the franchise.

“What Kobe really probably wants is to just be informed,” Johnson said. “As a leader, as a future Hall of Famer, as a guy who has brought five championships to the Lakers and the fans of Los Angeles, he just wants to probably have more communication probably like he did when Phil Jackson was there, and he worked well with Mitch (Kupchak).”

The Lakers beat Dallas, 96-91, on Wednesday night despite Bryant having an off-game shooting, plus seven turnovers. They will try to finish an inconsistent first portion of the season on a high note Thursday night in Oklahoma City.

NOTES, QUOTES

   –The Lakers followed up a 19-for-22 free-throw clinic Monday night versus Portland by making just 18-of-31 in Dallas on Wednesday night. Matt Barnes, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol combined to miss six in a row down the stretch, though it didn’t wind up costing the Lakers.
   –The Lakers missed a chance to reconnect with ex-teammate Lamar Odom on Wednesday night in Dallas. Odom left the Mavericks to go to Los Angeles in what was described as a family matter. Odom’s rotation spot was taken by Yi Jianlian, whose four points and two rebounds weren’t far from what Odom has been providing in a disappointing debut season in Dallas.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “They swept us last year, so that was in the back of our minds.” — Lakers center Andrew Bynum, after beating the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.

ROSTER REPORT
PLAYER NOTES:

   –F Pau Gasol did not get any guarantees about staying a Laker this season, but Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak did reach out to Gasol personally Monday after Kobe Bryant’s comments about the Lakers’ and Gasol’s trade distraction, according to The Orange County Register. The NBA trade deadline is March 15. Kupchak said in a statement he is keeping his options open.
   –G Derek Fisher’s motivation for revenge against the Dallas Mavericks was clear in his 15-point effort Wednesday night in the Lakers’ first trip back since being swept in the second round of the 2011 NBA playoffs. Fisher made 6-of-8 shots on a night when Kobe Bryant made just 4-of-15.
   –G Kobe Bryant raved about the quality of the athletes on the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder, whom the Lakers face Thursday night. Said Bryant: “The Freak Show. Them boys are athletic freaks.”

MEDICAL WATCH:
   –G Steve Blake (costochondral fracture) is playing through the injury.

ROTATION:
   Starters:
   –Point guard Derek Fisher
   –Shooting guard Kobe Bryant
   –Small forward Metta World Peace
   –Power forward Pau Gasol
   –Center Andrew Bynum
   Bench:
   –Guard Steve Blake
   –Guard Andrew Goudelock
   –Forward Troy Murphy
   –Forward Matt Barnes