On the March 3rd edition of KIA NBA Countdown on ABC, analysts Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose and Michael Wilbon provided insights on several of the NBA’s top storylines and previewed today’s blockbuster ABC NBA Sunday Showcase doubleheader: Miami Heat at New York Knicks (1 p.m. ET); Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers (3:30 p.m.). ESPN will also televise a prime-time showdown between the visiting Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers at 8 p.m. KIA NBA Countdown next airs Friday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Magic Johnson on LeBron “owning” NBA All-Star / $1 million Slam Dunk Contest offer
Johnson: What I would like him to do is own NBA All-Star weekend, like Jordan did. He’s only owned the All-Star game itself. Come in on Saturday (of All-Star) like you do on Sunday and own that event the way MJ did it.
*Michael Wilbon informs audience of LeBron James’ response to Magic’s offer through Lisa Salters
“Tell Magic I’ll get back to him.”
Bill Simmons: I’m starting to think LeBron James is a genius. In the past five weeks he’s shooting 65 percent from the field in the past five weeks and he’s turned his pre-game dunks into an event.
On the importance of today’s Heat-Knicks showdown
Johnson: If you are the Miami Heat, you have to send a message to the New York Knicks that says if we see you later, down the road in the playoffs, this is what you’re going to get. They are the defending champions, you have to make them understand that.
Simmons: You can’t underestimate the way LeBron James is playing right now. And, especially here at Madison Square Garden on the NBA’s biggest stage. I expect a big game from him today.
On the NBA’s best rivalries
Jalen Rose: High-level basketball, to me, breeds rivalries and it starts in the NBA Playoffs. To me the best rivalry in the NBA today is still the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. The biggest performance in the NBA last season was Eastern Conference Finals Game Six when LeBron James had that historic performance in the Garden. To me, in today’s game, it has to be those two teams.
Wilbon: There is a list of them. The thing is, there are a lot of little rivalries because there has been so much player movement. And, injuries. The great thing about a rivalry is that you establish an identity and you play each other every year.
Simmons: I think the guys are too buddy-buddy now. The Celtics are the only team that have rivalries with all these other teams because they’re not friendly. You don’t see the bad blood throughout the league. You know what keep rivalries together are the fan bases. Boston and L.A. still don’t like each other because of the fans.
Johnson: I’ll go to the west coast. To me it’s the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. They’ve met five times in the Western Conference Finals. They don’t like each other, but they like playing against each other. And, they complain about the Lakers getting too much credit.
Johnson interview with Kevin Durant
Durant on technical fouls
I just need to calm down sometimes. I get a little too emotional and too fired up. I’m starting to pile them up.
Durant on leadership role
I think Russell does a great job of letting me be vocal in the huddles. He follows my lead, but sometimes I follow his lead. We have a really good rapport on this team.
Johnson on Durant’s star power
I think the NBA has to start supporting this guy. They need to start getting him out there. He’s one of the two best players in the NBA. He’s a gym rat. I want to see him in more ads and commercials.
Rose on Durant as a leader
KD is more of an introvert. You have to be able to be vocal to be a leader. That’s a fine balance right there.