The Los Angeles Lakers’ decision to hire Kobe Bryant’s former representative Rob Pelinka as their general manager was an unexpected one, and it’s still unknown how it will play out.
The chief question facing Magic Johnson, Pelinka and the new Lakers regime is this: Will the former player agent have an advantage on the opposite side or the bargaining table, or will he be out of his depth?
There are a lot of similarities between the two jobs (recruiting players and understanding the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement) as well as plenty of differences (being in charge of one player is a lot different than being responsible for a whole team), adjustments Pelinka will have to learn on the fly.
However, there is reason for Lakers fans to hope his experience serves Pelinka well, at least according to one anonymous current agent that spoke with Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype in a larger Q&A with multiple agents on how agents think Pelinka will fare in his new job:
Do you think Pelinka will be able to attract some of his former clients to Los Angeles?
Agent No. 2: “I really think it’s possible. If you’re one of his former clients and you’re a free agent, who are you going to trust most? When five GMs are giving you their pitch, who do you trust the most and believe in the most? All things being equal, you’re probably going to go with the guy you’ve known for a long time and who helped you throughout your career. Could that be an advantage for him? I definitely think it could. Now, at some point, that’s going to run out. Years from now, he’ll have less and less guys in the league. But in the short-term? That’s absolutely an advantage.”
It is now painfully obvious: Pelinka joining the Lakers is the first step in the team recruiting Kobe out of retirement.
Okay, so that’s probably not true, but it is possible Pelinka could have an advantage with the players he used to serve, a list that includes starry names like James Harden, Andre Iguodala and Carlos Boozer (HOLDAT). The anonymous agent isn’t necessarily wrong that such prior relationships could give Pelinka a certain amount of extra cache in addition to the contract cash he’d already be offering them as free agents.
But, and this is a big but, it seems unlikely that playing for their former agent would be the primary reason a player joins a team in free agency.
It’s possible that it could help if everything was indeed equal in the hypothetical offered by the agent above, but all things are rarely equal. Every team can offer different money, market, playing time, roster fit and location situations (among other things) to free agent recruits.
So while Pelinka’s presence doesn’t sound like it will hurt the Lakers with players (quite the opposite, judging by the piece from Kennedy), fans shouldn’t go buy a Lakers James Harden jersey just yet, either.