Magic Johnson talks like an owner, even supports contraction

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Magic Johnson may have sold his Lakers shares but he sounds a lot more like an owner than a former player.

Owners are throwing the contraction issue out on the table during Collective Bargaining Agreement talks. Players almost to a man oppose contraction because it means fewer jobs.

Johnson took the owners side when asked by the Naples News at a charity event in Florida.

“How much would it hurt the league if we lost teams? It wouldn’t hurt it. It might make it better,” Johnson said. “… I think if you take away a couple teams, the talent level goes up and the league will only benefit, so I don’t see a problem with that. We just hope that we put a good product out on the court, and that’s the key.”

Johnson also said that comparing the NBA and NFL labor situations — both have a lockout looming — would be a mistake.

“Where football may have a team or two struggling, we have multiple teams struggling,” Johnson said. “We have a bigger problem than the NFL, and I think the NFL will solve their problems easier, and ours will be a lot tougher.”

Johnson just sold his 4.5 percent share of the Lakers, and you can bet he sold it for a lot more than he bought it for. The players will see none of that money. Asking the player to reduce the owners’ risk by taking paycuts but not giving them any of those long-term rewards is a path to a strike.

But having better, deeper NBA teams sounds good. It would be good for the level of play. The question is how does the NBA get closer to where the NFL is on that, where all the good talent doesn’t cluster on just a few team but spreads out to bring more parity and competition? Or does the NBA even want that?