While not completely surprising, Magic Johnson’s claims that Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka betrayed him sent shockwaves across the Lakers organization. Magic spoke at length about backstabbing and how that led to him resigning from his role as president of basketball operations.
Just hours later, Pelinka had a chance to speak about those allegations at the introductory press conference for new head coach Frank Vogel. Unsurprisingly, he refuted the claims.
Rob Pelinka on Magic Johnson's comments this morning. "These things are surprising to hear and disheartening. … They’re just simply not true. I stand beside him. I stand with him as a colleague and a partner. I’ve always supported everything he’s done and will continue to."
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) May 20, 2019
Pelinka was otherwise complimentary of Magic and the job he did with the Lakers. Of course, given the reputation that Pelinka has around the NBA, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that all of that was a lie as well. Still, the high road approach was the right move in order to find some stability during a chaotic day for the organization.
What’s clear is that this will predictably turn into a game of he said, she said with the absolute truth being somewhere in the middle. Magic was, by all accounts, an absent executive that did not do the amount of work he signed up for. Pelinka was, by all accounts, working behind his back to gain more power within the organization. Both things can be true and likely are.
Pelinka also spoke about the current structure of the Lakers’ front office noting that there will not be a replacement for Magic and that he will report to Jeanie Buss after collaboration with his “staff.” Kurt Rambis will remain in an advisory position, according to the general manager.
The issues with hierarchy in the Lakers front office and Magic Johnson’s resignation and ensuing comments have soured the Lakers’ perception around the NBA even more than their suspect decision making. Vogel was quick to point out that the reality is different but key figures outside of the organization (e.g. free agents) will see the public perception and avoid the fire causing that smoke.
The Lakers need to embark on a huge crusade to not only fix their on-court mistakes but to also improve their collective and individual perceptions if they are going to have a successful offseason that leads into a successful second year for LeBron James.