Magic Johnson was at Camelback Ranch on Friday, and he gave a little motivational talk to the players.
“This Dodger team, I’m feeling good how we really know each other now. This city is about expectations. Come on, now, you’ve got to embrace that. Have fun. Play the game the way you’ve always played it.
It’s not about expectations, the payroll. We should want to win it. Hey, there have been expectations on them as young men way before now. They were probably the best in high school, in the college they went to. Expectations? I love it. Because it reminds me of the old Dodgers, the old Lakers. I told them, `You all had pressure. We had it too. We loved it.’ I’d rather have that than no expectations.”
Magic Johnson is an experienced winner. He was part of five NBA titles with the Lakers during the 1980s. Magic said that if the Dodgers make it to the playoffs it will have been a successful season, but of course he wants to win it all. Johnson even compared his rivalry with Larry Bird and the Celtics to the Dodgers and the Giants in the NL West. He cited that the competition between the two teams, and even Arizona who is always a tough team to beat for the Dodgers, is what can fuel the desire to win. Both teams make each other that much better because they challenge one another.
Magic said that he doesn’t get involved in the baseball decisions which are handled by Don Mattingly, Ned Colletti, and Stan Kasten. He’s learning the ropes from them and also Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda.
Magic also took questions from the players. Adrian Gonzalez asked a question about how Johnson prepared for games utilizing video, and Matt Kemp asked when they were going to play one-on-one. Magic has said that he will play a one-on-one basketball game versus Matt Kemp after the Dodgers win the World Series.
There’s no one better for these players to look up to than Magic. His larger-than-life presence and iconic smile can light up a room or even a stadium. During the Frank McCourt regime, there wasn’t much mentoring or positive coaching for the players. We saw how the negativity between Matt Kemp and the coaching staff took the vivacity out of his game. With the new ownership group, who are seemingly upbeat and positive, along with the coaching staff these 2013 Dodgers have a lot more resources in order to not only help them shape their play on the field but also make them all-around better professional athletes.
I can’t wait to see that one-on-one hoops game between Magic and Kemp. I still think Magic would kick his butt.