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No. 32 to be retired; but will Magic?

Magic Johnson's jersey will be retired by the Los Angeles Lakers today although Johnson has said several times recently that he might return as a professional player some day.

Johnson, who announced his retirement on Nov. 7 because he tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS, will be honored at halftime of the nationally televised game between the Lakers and Boston Celtics at the Forum (3:30 p.m. on Ch. 8).

Celtics forward Larry Bird, a longtime rival and good friend of Johnson's, is sidelined because of a bad back, but is expected to attend today's ceremony. Team doctors didn't make a commitment in case his back problems flared up.

After being selected as the Most Valuable Player in last Sunday's All-Star game with 25 points, nine assists and five rebounds in 29 minutes, Johnson again left the door open to a possible return to professional basketball.

"It makes me feel good that all of that hard work paid off on Sunday," he said. "I will continue to work in case I want to come back or just get ready for the Olympics. I'm not making any hasty decisions, just because I played well. What I have to do now is lay out all the factors and make a decision."

Johnson had said previously he'll play for the United States in the Summer Olympics at Barcelona, Spain.

"We look at it as if he's retired as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers," said John Black, the Lakers' director of public relations.

But before the Lakers' loss to the Washington Bullets on Friday night, Johnson said the most significant thing about the ceremony was that "I might come back.

"After next week, I will, in my mind, set something," Johnson said. "Because if I decide to come back, then I should let them know. I should give them a timetable because they need to prepare too."

When asked what the Lakers will do if Johnson decides to return to the NBA at a later date, Black said, "We will take that as a separate issue at that time."

Dallas negotiating deal

The Mavericks are negotiating a deal that would send shooting guard Rolando Blackman to the New York Knicks in exchange for reserve John Starks, according to a report in the Dallas Morning News. An obstacle to completing the deal by Thursday's trading deadline is the Mavs' insistence on also receiving a first-round draft pick, the paper said.

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