D'Antoni shrugs off Magic Johnson's latest criticism

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Magic Johnson again criticized the Los Angeles Lakers for hiring coach Mike D'Antoni.

"We made some critical mistakes," Johnson said to Leno on Monday. "Coach D'Antoni, I like him ... when he was with Phoenix."

Johnson's line brought laughter and applause from Leno's L.A.-based studio audience.

"Because we're the Lakers, we got to have a championship coach," Johnson said. "We made a critical mistake in not bringing Phil Jackson back. That was a critical mistake."

Beyond D'Antoni never winning a ring, or making it to the Finals, in 12 seasons as head coach with Denver, Phoenix, New York and Los Angeles, Johnson said he had an issue with D'Antoni's approach to defense.

"I can't stand to watch the Lakers play because the same play happens every single time on the Lakers: pick-and-roll and the guard goes all the way in for a layup. We're 40-something games into the season. The teams run the same play, Jay, on us. We haven't stopped it yet. Uh . . . duh!"

D'Antoni was asked about Johnson's comments following shootaround Tuesday morning in preparation for his team's game Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers.

"No," D'Antoni said when asked if he had any thoughts about Johnson's statement. "Next subject"

D'Antoni was asked about Johnson's comments again during Tuesday's pregame media session and remained tight-lipped.

"I don't have anything to say," D'Antoni said. "There's no use addressing it."

A reporter followed up by asking if the coach found Johnson's stance "hurtful" in any way.

"Oh yeah," D'Antoni said. "It doesn't help anything, but that's not up to me to say."

Johnson, who went 5-11 in 16 games as Lakers head coach during the 1993-94 season, made similar comments in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, telling the newspaper D'Antoni's hiring was, "a wrong decision."

D'Antoni, who said he has not spoken to Johnson in person since joining the Lakers, responded to the previous barb from Johnson when the team was in Boston during its recent seven-game "Grammy" road trip.

"Normally I don't hear it until [the media] brings it up," D'Antoni said. "There's voices everywhere, and it's a hard job to do no matter what team you're with. You do the best you can and you feel like every day is a new battle, and everybody has their opinion. There's a saying about that . . . So, that's the way it is. You go on and do your job."

L.A. has allowed its opponent to score 100 points or more in each of the last 12 games (going 2-10 in that stretch) and ranks 26th in the league in defensive efficiency overall, allowing 106.2 points per 100 possessions.

Part of the Lakers' struggles on that end has been because of injuries. Once L.A. starts getting players like Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake, Xavier Henry, Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar back in the lineup, will they be capable of improving on defense?

"Yeah, yeah," D'Antoni said, matter of fact. "Yup."