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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Magic Chooses NBA Over '96 Olympics


INGLEWOOD, California -- The Magic mystery tour is going to run for another year, after Earvin Johnson said he plans to play again next season.

Only Magic could commit seven turnovers miss six of 10 shots from the field and four of 10 from the line during a 111-107 loss to the Houston Rockets in a Sunday matinee before 17,505 at the Forum and still leave the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans feeling good.

Seemingly in one motion, Johnson dropped out of the running for one of the final two Olympic spots and reaffirmed his intentions to return for 1996-97, saying, "I'm planning on coming back.'' The two decisions are linked.

"It would be too much, because of my family commitments," said Johnson, who came back to the Lakers this year in mid-season after more than four years away since discovering he had the virus that causes AIDS.

The charismatic Johnson, who thrilled audiences and opponents alike as a central figure on the gold medal winning U.S. "Dream Team" at the 1992 Barcelona Games, said the fact he was planning on returning to the NBA again next season meant precious little time to add in an Olympic campaign.

"I've been wrestling with it, you know," Johnson said in an interview with NBC television. "I really wanted to do it. And then when I saw that schedule, and I saw, man, where is my time going to be with the family, for myself to recuperate, to get ready for next season.

"And I just didn't see it there."

Johnson and all the Lakers hope this season lasts through mid-June. Practice for the Olympic team starts July 1, the day he becomes a free agent, and the basketball competition for the Summer Olympic Games runs until Aug. 3, should the United States reach the gold-medal game.

Eleven days later, he turns 37. Even younger players lamented in 1992 that they didn't have sufficient time to recharge for camps after the Barcelona Olympics ended the same first week of August, so Johnson apparently has eliminated that as a concern.

"It's the right decision,'' he said. "I would like to play, but it's the right decision.''

The Olympic announcement, leaving Mitch Richmond, Shawn Kemp and Jason Kidd as the leading contenders for the two remaining spots, was something of a surprise.

He had very much wanted to play and USA Basketball was certainly interested, especially since Johnson's play during the comeback proved he would be an effective part of the team, and not merely a novelty based on personality and past accomplishments.

The announcement that he plans to return next season, however, was hardly a no-look pass. He all but made that final declaration the day before, saying, "I'm heading in that direction,'' while moving up his original timetable for a decision.

There is no truth to the rumor that Olympic officials asked him to bow out after seeing his performance in the nationally televised game against the Rockets, in which he labored for 14 points. At least he looked smoother than Friday, his first game back from a nagging calf injury, while playing 26 minutes because of time restrictions imposed by the team's medical staff.

Johnson, who led the Lakers to five NBA titles as the game's preeminent point guard, has played primarily at forward since his return and is averaging 14.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 10 games.