INPATIENT Magic is unconscious, but this time literally


INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- As the final seconds of the third quarter ticked down yesterday at the Forum, Lakers guard Magic Johnson found himself backpedaling in an attempt to guard against a Chicago fastbreak.

Then things started going wrong. Johnson backed into teammate Terry Teagle and tripped. As Johnson fell to the floor, he was accidentally kicked in the side of the head by Horace Grant, the 6-foot-10 Chicago forward, who was taking the ball, unsuccessfully, to the hoop. Finally, Johnson's head banged the floor.

For 60 scary seconds Johnson was unconscious. For five minutes he lay still on the court as trainer Gary Vitti and Dr. Stephen Lombardo tended to him. Then Johnson sat up before being helped to the dressing room.

"It took me a second to figure out he was unconscious," Vitti said after the Lakers beat the Bulls, 99-86, despite Johnson's absence for the entire fourth quarter. "He had an expression on his face, one of pain, but he didn't respond when I called his name. So I checked his breathing, and he was breathing. As long as there's breathing, you just wait for him to come around."

When Johnson finally sat up, he looked around, bug-eyed, and asked Vitti, "What happened?"

Johnson's injury was diagnosed as a concussion, and when he displayed signs of what Vitti called "retrograde amnesia," the decision was made to have Johnson spend last night under observation at Centinela Hospital.

"He remembered everything, initially," Vitti said. "But after 15, 20 minutes, he started to forget."

Vitti predicted that Johnson would have a bad headache but said there were no signs of additional injuries. In fact, he held out the possibility Johnson would be able to play when the Lakers seek their 16th straight win, tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Clippers.

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