Johnson, Jordan could team in free-agent backcourt

With Magic Johnson's high level of performance since returning, it's no surprise he intends to play at least another season. But with Johnson joining a long list of top-notch players who will become free agents, the question is where?

Johnson said that he would like to play another season with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he has played his entire career. But he also has dropped hints about playing in New York, Detroit and Miami, where he would be reunited with Pat Riley.


"Right now I'm with the Lakers and I'll wait until after the season to take care of things like that," Johnson said. "I want to stay in L.A. and hope to be there. If that doesn't happen, I'll talk to Pat, Detroit and New York and go from there."

And what about playing alongside Michael Jordan, who also becomes a free agent after the season?


"It would be fun, it would be a blast especially making this our last contract and going off in the sunset after this," Johnson said. "After the season I'm sure we're going to get together. A lot of what he does, and what I do will be predicated on each other."

Johnson, who over the weekend removed his name from consideration for the Olympics, said he's surprised about his ability to still dominate a game after being away for 4 1/2 years.

"To come back and play the way I've been playing has surpassed what I even thought," Johnson said. "I'm happy with my progress and I think it's going to get better. I look forward to being back next season."

Kings fall from early throne

If the regular season were to end today, the Sacramento Kings would be in the playoffs for the first time since the 1985-86 season. Too bad for the Kings that the season isn't ending today, because when the postseason starts in April don't look for Sacramento to be there.

After starting the season at nearly a neck-and-neck pace with the Seattle SuperSonics, the Kings (25-31) have lost 14 of their past 16, 18 of 21 and 22 of their past 28 games. They've fallen from second place in the Pacific Division to fifth, and had a loose grip on that eighth spot going into last night.

"Sacramento's dropping like a rock coming out of an airplane," Phoenix forward Charles Barkley said. "Plummeting, without a parachute."

It's a nose dive that was totally unexpected from a team that finished two games out of a playoff spot last season. The Kings were bringing back an impressive forward tandem in Michael Smith and Brian Grant, playing alongside established players such as Walt Williams and All-Star guard Mitch Richmond. And with rookie Tyus Edney starting strong, the Kings appeared to have a solution to their point guard woes.


But the free fall forced the trade that sent Williams to Miami for Billy Owens. Now Owens is listed day-to-day with the dreaded plantar fascia injury. Sarunas Marciulionis, who just came back from knee surgery, is now out with a slight quadriceps tear. Combine with a poor shooting team that also ranks second in the league in turnovers (18.0 per game), and the Kings are setting their sights on the NBA lottery.

"You just get to thinking 'what else? What else could happen?' " Grant said.

Around the league

When Atlanta needed a point guard recently, it went calling on Steve Colter. But the former Washington Bullets guard declined -- he's at Arizona State finishing his master's degree in counseling. "I've known Steve for a long time and it's really refreshing that he made that choice," said Hawks general manager Pete Babcock. . . . If Golden State forward Chris Mullin misses the rest of the season as expected (he suffered a ligament tear in right little finger on Sunday), he will have missed 108 games over the past four seasons. He ends the season 23 points short of 15,000 for his career. . . . A foot specialist has recommended that Philadelphia 76ers forward Derrick Coleman not play again this season. Coleman, who has played just 11 games, injured his right ankle on Dec. 9 and has been unproductive each time he has attempted to come back.

Quote of the week

From quotable Los Angeles Clippers forward Brian Williams, after chunky teammate Stanley Roberts was ejected Saturday.


"Stanley was upset because they told him he couldn't get in the Clipper Club for snacks after the game."

Pub Date: 3/08/96