But first, a few options for the newly liquid Magic Johnson.
When Magic Johnson sold his minority share of the Lakers on Monday, eyebrows were appropriately raised. Magic has long been seen as looking to have a bigger role with an NBA team, and Michael Jordan becoming the first former player to be a majority owner late last season could certainly have kicked Johnson's plan into high gear.
Still, Johnson denied the Lakers' sale was a move to set up some immediate bid. A day later, he reportedly sold his 105 Starbucks franchises, opening up even more liquidity. He's going to have a bit more trouble explaining that away. Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons ownership bid of Mike Illitch looms largely in the background. Illitch, the owner of the NHL Red Wings and MLB Tigers, agreed earlier this month to buy the Pistons from Karen Davidson, widow of longtime team owner Bill Davidson.
Magic is, of course, from Lansing and starred at Michigan State before going Hollywood. In August, he told NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper he'd be interested in joining an ownership group in Detroit and working in the front office in some capacity. That has always been an apparent draw for Magic, getting to call shots, getting to have inside info. His role with that is limited in L.A., and it's doubtful he was ever seen as a potential replacement for Mitch Kupchak down the line.
It'd be completely unsurprising if Magic joined Illitch's purchasing group. But there are a few other things he could be working on. Fire up the prediction machine.
Buying the Dodgers. Here's the messiest possible answer: Magic sees the McCourts' drama devaluing a gold-plated asset, and he wants to have all his liquidity in place to swoop in and take over the team when the divorcing couple is forced to sell. (Sometime between next week and December, a judge will decide whether Frank McCourt alone or he and soon-to-be-ex Jamie McCourt have equal oversight. Many, including the former owner who sold the team to the McCourts in 2004, have called on the couple to sell the team.)
Magic is smart and savvy, and he knows that Dodgers, if managed properly, can basically print money.
Bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles. So that Los Angeles Stadium in the City of Industry might actually get built. (If it doesn't, a facility proposed by juggernaut AEG might.) And it isn't as if the problems of the Jacksonville Jaguars or Buffalo Bills have been solved. L.A. should probably have at least one NFL team, and maybe Jacksonville shouldn't. There's no "maybe" about the fact, though, that whoever is fortunate enough to buy the Jaguars and move them to L.A. will make a mint. Why not Magic?
Preparing 2013 L.A. mayoral run. Magic likes to plan things out. There are still three years before Antonio Villaraigosa is termed out, but Johnson can start building the foundation for a run now. And no, there's no chance he'd lose. Fellow scoring lead guards Kevin Johnson and Dave Bing won their respective mayorships in Sacramento and Detroit, after all, and neither of them have a ring, let alone a fistful of them.
Taking over for Joe Biden. Obama needs his swagger back, and perhaps the vice president spot should be turned over to a real entertainer. Magic could turn a morgue into a party hall. And you can't tell me this guy, the man who thawed Larry Bird's glacier heart, couldn't broker peace anywhere and everywhere. "Go ahead, try on my 1980 championship ring, Mr. Jong-il."
Making a Godfather offer for the Clippers. It has been written that nothing will ever get Donald Sterling out of the NBA. Magic Johnson, a karaoke machine, a case of wine and $500 million ... I'm not betting against that. They say Sterling is only happy when he's discriminating against a minority or partying with celebrities. Magic has the otherworldly charm to burrow into Sterling's ear and convince him to sell the team. (Well, we can all dream, right?) (TZ)
UPDATE: Magic Johnson Could Bring NFL to Los Angeles
What We Like (Or, The Things We'll Miss During the Great '11-12 Season Shutdown): Mike D'Antoni's Mustache
What We Like champions the unlikely things we'll miss if the league shuts down next summer. Rob Peterson is a FanHouse producer and frequent contributor to The Works.
After a buttoned-down '50s, where All-American boys all wore crew cuts, the mustaches of the late '60s were born -- and borne -- out of stylish rebellion. By the '70s, they were still a bit cheesy but an accepted accoutrement for many an American male. More than likely, you were squaresville if you didn't have one.
As the boys who lease this space to me on occasion note in their spectacular tome, The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History, the NBA had its fair share of hirsute himbos hitting the hardwood in the mid-'70s. Mike D'Antoni was no exception.
But in 2010, D'Antoni stands out because his 'stache is an exception to the rule. There are many beards, goatees and scratchy patches adorning NBA faces these days, but very few mustaches, especially among coaches. (We'll get to Stan Van Gundy later.) That's one of the reasons we'll miss Mike's mustache when the league locks its doors while David Stern drops the keys down the front of his pants.
The other reason we'll miss it because over the course of nearly four decades, D'Antoni has never wavered with his flavor saver. Some have tried to wear one, like Stern in the early '80s, and failed. Others, such as Phil Jackson, a great explorer, have flailed. Jackson may have found his Zen center in life, but he's found no center with his facial hair as he has gone from beard to goatee to mustache to soul patch. Groovy. Even Michael Jordan tried an homage to Charlie Chaplin (at least I hope it was Chaplin) in a Hanes commercial.
D'Antoni's 'stache, like his offensive philosophy, remains a cornerstone. As you can see in the visual timeline above, D'Antoni's face salad was in full flower his second season with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings (and had been since his days at Marshall University). His mustache is not an ironic nod to hairier times in -- and for -- the NBA nor does he wear it as if it were some hipster fad. Mike's mustache is fully a part of him. He wore it in Italy, where he also wore No. 8, which inspired a kid named Kobe Bryant, who idolized D'Antoni while he was in Europe where his dad played, to wear it in the NBA. Maybe D'Antoni inspired Kobe's wispy Draft night mustache as well.
Then again, D'Antoni's mustache doesn't inspire awe. His lip hugger is not ostentatious or exceptional in any way, therefore it doesn't define his identity as Rollie Fingers' handlebar mustache or Groucho Marx or Tom Selleck or even the Monopoly guy. D'Antoni's just seems ... natural.
As for Stan Van Gundy, you would think his mustache would rate. It doesn't. And no, it's not because we're uncomfortable with the resemblance to adult film star Ron Jeremy. OK, maybe slightly. But SVG falls short because his 'stache has always seemed unnaturally dark especially for a guy whose kvetching and high-strung nature would seemingly cause gray hair to sprout like weeds. Instead of turning gray, the Van Gundys, Stan and Jeff, lose their hair, but whatever they keep remains dark. That, and you would hate to think that someone who's as unconcerned with his appearance as Stan seems to be would stoop to dying his mustache. Recent photos, however, have shown that SVG's 'stache has started to go gray. That's more like it. (Plus, we'll miss Van Gundy's dealings with press more than anything about him. You can count on it being a future entry.)
As for D'Antoni, we know his mustache hides a stiff upper lip. He got a raw deal in Denver during the lockout-shortened season and was dismissed after the season. He knew his style, both on the floor and off, could work in the NBA. So, he waited. He got his chance In Phoenix, where his Suns always managed to lose in the most spectacular ways possible in the postseason, often to the San Antonio Spurs. In his two seasons with the Knicks, his teams have struggled while the front office cleared cap space in the hopes that a savior would come through free agency.
Yet, D'Antoni has his critics. The late Gene Siskel and the great Roger Ebert had a theory, hatched before Boogie Nights, that Burt Reynolds never made a good movie while he wore a mustache. Maybe not, but Burt made some of his most crowd-pleasing movies wearing one. If anything, D'Antoni's teams can be a blast to watch. But his reputation as an offensive genius has waned somewhat while many have waxed poetic about his lax defensive schemes.
Maybe it's time to sacrifice the 'stache for a title. But we hope not. We'd like to think that D'Antoni's mustache has Samson-like qualities and that he'd lose strength without it and that one day, D'Antoni could sop up some championship champagne with it.
Until then, we'll just be thankful that D'Antoni is man enough to take his mustache along for the ride. (RP)
NBA Mid-Majors: Dallas Mavericks
It's not just that the Heat, Lakers, and Celtics are the favorites to win a championship. Try and picture any other team hoisting up the Larry O'Brien; unless your homer-ism runs so deep and wide that you deny the existence of any national media, it's a feat that requires no small amount of imagination. In any other season, we would figure these teams had an outside shot at a title. With parity going out the window, they're effectively demoted to a second tier. Good, but not great; formidable, but not dominant. This league has its very own bourgeoisie -- or, since this is sports, mid-majors.
Of course, the tragedy is that each represents a really, really solid model for building up, and generally, sustaining, a winning basketball team. Each one has a program, an ideal, that they have used to get to where they are. Can they respond to this season's hostile environment by bringing it harder than ever before? Or does each come crashing up against the limitations of their own pet thinking? For the next couple of days, The Works will survey the NBA's mid-majors, breaking down what they stand for and what hope, if any, there is of them going even further next season.
Just more of the same down in the Big D: keep the vets coming, and hope it all gels before Jason Kidd gets old. This summer, that meant re-signing Brendan Haywood and making a deal for Tyson Chandler, who may or may not ever be a shadow of his former self again. Now, back to business, with a team that will make the playoffs, but once there, could just as easily crap out in the first round as it could gut out an upset.
Kidd, and more acutely, Shawn Marion, have a limited amount of time left, and Dirk Nowitzki doesn't launch threes like he used to. But Dirk remains one of the league's most quietly dominant scorers, Jason Terry somehow is still deadly, Caron Butler is in his prime, and Haywood is solid. You would be safe to tamp down expectations for this team -- just don't act surprised if they end up exceeding them. It's not like they haven't all been there before. We also know better than to trust it when they get there.
The real wild card for Dallas is its younger players, particularly the guards. First and foremost, there's Rodrigue Beaubois, the lightning-quick Frenchman who Rick Carlisle kept on the bench during the playoffs, until he didn't, and Beaubois lit up the Spurs when he did -- by which time it was too late. The irritating Jose Barea is a spring chicken compared to this squad, and he too can provide valuable support, sometimes playing alongside Kidd in a truly bizarre backcourt. Rookie Dominique Jones could also make an impact. As far as larger players are concerned, some still hold out hope that Ian Mahinmi, a Spurs deep-sleeper who has done valuable time in the D-League, could blossom. Let's throw one back for Alexis Ajinca while we're at it.
What Needs to Happen for Them to Win: Marion or Chandler could rebound (literally and figuratively); Dirk and Butler could outdo themselves; Rick Carlisle could figure out something imaginative with position, or at least a neat rotation, to get minutes for a bunch of kids who more than deserve them. If a few of these things happen, the Mavs could be very, very good. If all do, they're scary. However, that's never really been this team's way. Look for modest, but encouraging gains that break into a crescendo at just the right time. That's Mavs we can believe in.
Worst Case Scenario: This one is simple. If the veteran Mavs go downhill fast, but due to seniority can't very well be tossed aside, and have worthy youngster chomping at the bit. A team in decline is one thing; husks of vet holding back the next generation can be downright maddening.
The Works is a daily column written by Bethlehem Shoals (@freedarko) and Tom Ziller (@teamziller). Their Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History will be available this October.