December 07, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) Magic Johnson watches NBA games every day, amazed by the way Russell Westbrook is compiling triple-doubles even faster than he could.

Now Johnson is ready to start talking about it on the air again.

The Hall of Famer is returning to ESPN to work on the pregame studio show for ABC's NBA Saturday night games.

''Where the league is today and where the league is headed, I wanted to be a part of it again,'' Johnson said Monday in a phone interview. ''It's fun to see. There's so many different story lines this season. It's going to be, I think, an amazing NBA finish.''

Johnson will debut during the network's Christmas coverage and then join Michael Wilbon and Sage Steele on the Saturday night team beginning Jan. 21.

Johnson worked for ESPN as a studio analyst from 2008-13 and said getting to work again with Wilbon was one of the reasons for his return, along with the chance to work the limited nine-game Saturday schedule. He was previously doing 60 or more nights, too much with his other businesses.

''If it had been a full schedule like I did before, 60-something games, it never would have worked out,'' he said. ''I wouldn't have come back.''

This is the second season of ''NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC,'' which had one of the most memorable regular-season games of last season when Golden State stormed back to beat Oklahoma City when MVP Stephen Curry hit a long 3-pointer in overtime.

Now Johnson thinks the Thunder's Westbrook is on track to unseat Curry. The reigning Western Conference player of the week entered play Monday with five straight triple-doubles, most since Michael Jordan had seven in a row in 1989, and was averaging 31.0 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds for the season.

''You think about it and not just getting triple-doubles, but he gets high triple-doubles with his scoring, rebounds and assists,'' said Johnson, who is second in NBA history with 138 triple-doubles.

''So what he's doing and the rate he's doing it at as well, it's just truly amazing and if anybody could average a triple-double for a season I think he could definitely pull it off. So it's got the whole league and all basketball fans around the country paying notice to him.''

The NBA Countdown pregame show will run for 30 minutes beginning at 8 p.m. EST. The Saturday night schedule begins with San Antonio visiting Cleveland, then has the Clippers visiting the Warriors on Jan. 28, putting the West's top three teams in action in the first two weeks.

''It's an exciting season and I wanted to be a part of it,'' Johnson said.

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