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Magic Johnson says that LeBron James wants the Lakers to play fast, signed off on their free agent signings

Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Luke Walton are all on the same page heading into their first Lakers season together.

Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson & Rob Pelinka Los Angeles Lakers Media Availability Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Thus far, the narratives surrounding LeBron James coming to the Los Angeles Lakers have been that he’s coming solely for business purposes, and that if he is coming for any basketball reasons, it definitely isn’t the kids. And that if he’s going to play with the kids, it’ll be at his pace.

In the months since his signing, though, each (bad) narrative has taken a hit, most recently with James saying he didn’t need to join the Lakers to make movies. Now, those takes haven’t literally been proven wrong because all we’ve been able to see are talking points, but it’s been fun to watch critics move the goalposts.

Magic Johnson was on “ESPN LA Mornings with Keyshawn, LZ and Travis” and the conversation with LeBron that he relayed to the Keyshawn dealt another blow to the aforementioned narratives, starting with LeBron’s priorities and what he sees in the Lakers — specifically regarding pace.

”He just said he wanted to be happy but he didn’t want it all on him anymore ... He broke down the players better than I could on our team, and he said ‘Hey, I want to play with these young guys because you guys are No. 1 or No. 2 in pace. I want to play that way.’ He wants to play an up-and-down game, and I think Coach Walton being young, he can work with him as well. So it all just come together for us.”

Keyshawn then asked Johnson about the process by which this roster came together and what role James had in it.

”I sat down with him and I asked him ‘Do you want shooters? Do you want dogs, and tough dudes?’ And he said ‘Man, I want some tough dudes. I want some tough-minded cats. I want physical dudes, yet still winners.’ So Rondo fit the bill.

Lance Stephenson, he’d been going up against him for a long time, and he loved his competitive spirit and what he brings to the table because we love Lance, and he said ‘Man I would love to play with him.’ So Lance called him first, to say ‘Is this going to be okay LeBron?’ And LeBron signed off on it (and said) ‘Yeah, I want to play with you.’

And then JaVale brings a different element to our team. We didn’t have a pick and roll dude. We had pick and pop guys who would shoot the 3-pointer, but we didn’t have a guy that you could throw lobs to and also block shots on the defensive end like JaVale McGee...

Michael Beasley, man, the boy can play. He averaged double figures off the bench for New York, and we want him to bring that same scoring mentality on our bench.”

Then, regarding the pace at which the Lakers will play, Johnson said LeBron is ready to run.

”It’s going to be fast. It’s going to be up-and-down basketball. But we didn’t build this for the regular season, we built this for the playoffs. Because all the teams that had great shooters lost. Only one team survived, and that was Golden State, and you can’t out Golden State, Golden State. So you have to realize, if I’m going to try and deal with them, you’re not going to get three shooters like they have, so you have to get somebody to go up against them and so we built this team to say hey, we got some tough-minded guys and we want to play an up-and-down style.”

So before we move on, it’s important to note the difference between regular season and postseason play. Not to rain on Magic’s parade, but postseason games are typically won with execution and efficiency as the game slows down. But in terms of what wins random games in the NBA, outrunning the opposition is a great way to gain an upper hand consistently.

Back to Magic.

“And I’ll tell you by the end of the season, you’re not going to want to play the Lakers, because this team is going to gel, they’re going to come together. I think we’re going to get off to a slow start because we don’t know each other, but as we’re building during the season it’s going to be great for the Lakers.”

As much fun as it’s been to chuckle at the narratives being taken apart one at a time, this last quote was far and away the most important of the things Magic said in the interview. His managing expectations and remaining on the same page with Walton is going to be absolutely critical in maintaining the foundation upon which this team was built.

All-around, the last couple days have provided some great quotes that should really get fans excited about this next season, but it’s all words until the Lakers get on an actual court, which can’t possibly come soon enough.

On today’s Locked on Lakers, Pete and I discussed yesterday’s press conference. Listen to the full conversation, here:

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