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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Magic Casts His Old Spell

BALTIMORE, Maryland -- You really have to feel for Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Van Exel. Because you know that sometimes during these last weeks of the season the rookie guard will foul up a play during practice. Then the whistle will blow and the coach will take the floor and execute the same play -- 10 times better.


The Magic is back in Los Angeles. And while Earvin Johnson won't get the chance to wear his old No. 32 on the court, one thing is obvious: showtime has returned to Laker basketball perhaps for the first time since Johnson's 1991 retirement amid revelations he had tested positive for the virus which causes AIDS.


Even after some of his peers turned their backs on the greatest point guard to ever play the game, Johnson was not able to give up the sport.


Showing no effects from the HIV virus, Johnson formed his own basketball team and has spent recent months touring and dazzling basketball fans worldwide.


Now he replaces Randy Pfund in a season when the team's chances of making the playoffs are remote. Owner Jerry Buss is attempting to see if anyone can motivate the Lakers, a team Johnson criticized as seeming to "lack pride."


Johnson will be demanding. His first practice lasted more than three hours and ended only after an assistant coach reminded Johnson the team had a game the next night.


After the Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks in his debut -- 110-101 -- Sunday night, Johnson said: ''We wore them down, but we wore ourselves down. If I can keep them believing in themselves and saying this is the way we can win and work ourselves into shape in terms of playing this style, we're gonna be fine.


"Maybe I love this game too much," Johnson, 34, told reporters. "I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. No matter what happens, I will always remember this game."


Now, if only the Lakers had some players.