- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Washington Wizards got an unexpected visit yesterday from NBA legend Magic Johnson, who warned that the team should not be taken lightly in its first trip to the playoffs since 1997.

“This is a dangerous team,” said Johnson, now a highly successful businessman and TNT analyst. “People are not going to want to tangle with them in a seven-game series.”

Johnson, whose numerous business ventures in this area include the 12-screen Magic Johnson Theater in Largo, was at MCI Center yesterday as one of the celebrities participating in Freddie Mac’s Hoops for the Homeless tournament.

Johnson has many ties to the Wizards. He and coach Eddie Jordan were teammates with the Los Angles Lakers in the early 1980s; he and assistant coach Phil Hubbard were high school stars in Michigan; and he and assistant coach Mike O’Koren were high school All-Americans together.

“This is really my family,” Johnson said with a smile.

Jordan asked Johnson if he would address the Wizards, who have 44 wins this season — 19 more than a year ago — with three games to go. Johnson spoke to the team for about 15 minutes, according to Jordan.

Asked the benefits of having someone like Johnson address a young playoff team, Jordan replied, “He’s won five championships. He speaks their language. I just wanted him to say a few words to them about what this time of year is about and what it means. And he was right on. I think our guys enjoyed it. It’s gravy on the potatoes.”

Johnson said the Wizards, who play Charlotte this afternoon in their final regular-season home game, have put together a winning combination the right way.

“Eddie is a tremendous coach who has been in a winning situation,” Johnson said. “[General manager] Ernie [Grunfeld] has been in winning situations, and he also knows what it takes to win. So you have to give them a lot of credit for what they’ve put together.”

When Johnson played, teams scored substantially more than they do now. However, he said he admires Washington’s league-leading scoring trio of Gilbert Arenas (25.7), Larry Hughes (22.1) and Antawn Jamison (19.9) — and he believes they will be even harder to deal with when the playoffs begin next weekend.

“When you have three scorers who can potentially go over 20, I wouldn’t want to be playing these guys because this is a dangerous team,” Johnson explained. “They can win at home, and they can win on the road. And if they are all hot together, they can beat anybody in the league. People know about them.”

Note — The Wizards will make a game-time decision regarding the activation of reserve guard Anthony Peeler, who has been on the injured list since March 5.

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