Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Will U.S. Olympic Team Have That Magic Touch Again?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Will U.S. Olympic Team Have That Magic Touch Again?

Article excerpt

Are you ready for . . . Magic '96?

Magic Johnson has volunteered to play for the U.S. team in the 1996 Olympics, when he'll be 36. He has been barnstorming with his own team since retiring from the National Basketball Association at 32 and appears to have lost none of his game.

"I saw him play last summer against our summer-league team," Los Angeles Lakers coach Del Harris said, "and at that time, I thought he was still probably one of the five best players in the world. And he's in a little better shape right now, from having played ball all winter."

Insiders expect USA Basketball, the Colorado Springs-based office that runs the team - and the NBA, which influences all decisions - to take a close look at Johnson.

USA Basketball has just named an 11-man panel - chaired by Rod Thorn, NBA vice president of operations - to pick the coach and players for 1996. On the panel is Lakers Vice President Jerry West, plus six other NBA administrators.

"He can still play competitive basketball," said Johnson's agent, Lon Rosen. "He's been touring the world all year long. His team's 45-0. He plays every minute of every game."

Johnson retired from professional basketball in 1991, announcing he had tested positive for HIV. However, he has not developed AIDS and continues to enjoy a vigorous lifestyle, pursuing his varied interests.

In the winter of 1992, he played in the NBA All-Star Game. That summer, he played on the Dream Team, which won the gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics.

However, he never has gotten too far from his next basketball game. Recently asked by a reporter if he'd consider a return to the NBA, Johnson said he'd come back if the Lakers requested it but quickly recanted when the usual hubbub ensued.

The Other Johnson: Kevin Johnson handled his benching with silence. "I haven't been in the best of moods for two weeks, but you have to deal with adversity the best you can," the Phoenix Suns veteran point guard said Monday, before returning to the starting lineup Tuesday night.

Johnson said he disagreed with his benching by coach Paul Westphal six games ago after Golden State embarrassed the Suns, giving them five losses in seven games. …

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