Bull-dozed Johnson says he'll at least consider retirement

June 12, 1991|By Mark Heisler | Mark Heisler,Los Angeles Times

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Aside from injuries to James Worthy and Byron Scott, Magic Johnson resting the last two days and Mike Dunleavy practicing so they could have 10 men, the Los Angeles Lakers look marvelous.

Also, Johnson mentioned yesterday that he could retire this summer.

"If he retires," said Dunleavy, who thought he already had problems, "I'm going with him."

Such is the care-worn state of the Lakers, down 3-1 to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals, playing for their basketball lives tonight (9, Ch. 2) in Game 5.

Johnson has been smiling through his tears since Sunday's one-sided victory by the Bulls.

Perhaps tipping off his pain and the toll exacted by 79 regular-season games, 18 playoff games in which he has averaged 43 minutes and a week of being dogged by the Michael Jordan- Scottie Pippen greyhound team, Johnson began talking retirement yesterday.

"I'm not going to play but one or two more years, depending on how I feel," he said.

"I'll evaluate myself after this season and every season from here on out. And if I want to leave in a year, then I'll leave in a year. And if I want to leave the year after that, then I'll leave then. If I'm tired this summer, then I'll leave this summer."

That gagging sound in Bel-Air was emanating from Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

This summer?

"It's definitely a possibility," said Johnson, 31. "I'm taking three weeks and deciding what I want to do. If I feel like I don't want to return, I'll leave."

What would make him go?

"Just the feeling that it's time to go. That it's time to be doing something else. I've always wanted to be a businessman. I've set myself up. I don't have to work a day in my life. I own a business in D.C. [a soft-drink distributorship] that will last forever. My son will have it and his son and on through."

Could he be in a late-season funk?

"There's definitely a depression, frustration, everything . . . You say, 'Well, do I want to come back again?' "

Within minutes, however, Johnson was saying he didn't feel that this was his last finals.

"We've got some good people," Johnson said. "I feel we'll be back, and [GM] Jerry West is great at making the additions we need. I'm not giving up that easy."

In other words, ask him again in July.

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