It’s only been a little over a year since Rob Pelinka was named the new general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, but with the success the new front office has enjoyed since taking over in 2017, you’d think he’s been doing this all of his life.
But while Pelinka had no prior experience in an NBA front office, he served 20 years as one of the most high-profile agents in the association, with his biggest client being none other than Kobe Bryant. In an interview with ESPN at the NBA draft combine on Thursday, Pelinka shared how representing players for two decades helped him transition into a front office role with one of the most storied franchises in all of sports.
“20 years of representing players, I think what it gave me, I asked Kobe at the end of his career ‘What’s something that you learned in terms of relating to your teammates and willing all the championships and he said the biggest word for me was empathy,” Pelinka said. “At the end of his career, that’s what he shared and I think I’ve been able to have empathy for the agent community because I walked in their shoes for 20 years and in terms of we want to be an organization, that serves those relationships and understanding the agent lens has helped Earvin and I position ourselves to have really strong relationships with agents throughout the league.”
Magic Johnson came across the court to greet Rich Paul, LeBron James’ agent, during a 4th Q timeout pic.twitter.com/Q39mJBTw4l— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) March 12, 2018
But their relationship with players’ agents might be a little too good. In August of last year, the Lakers were slapped with a $500,000 tampering fine for being in contact with Paul George’s agent while he was still a member of the Indiana Pacers.
Was it a little harsh? Yes, but did the Lakers deserve it? No. I had a point, I swear.
Pelinka and the Lakers will have their chance to court George this summer, but first they need to take care of business ahead of June’s NBA draft, which Pelinka said is different for agents than it is for general managers, but sees some similarities.
“There’s a lot of crossover … at the end of the day you’re an agent and you know you’re only going to represent a guy or two in the draft so you’re having to be very selective in where you invest your time,” Pelinka said. “I think probably the biggest difference is when you’re a GM, a front office person, you’re thinking about the chemistry component. How does this player, how does Kyle Kuzma, fit with our other pieces? How does Josh Hart fit into our overall template? Where as an agent you’re just trying to pick a player you know is going to make it.”
The Pelinka era in Los Angeles has, for the most part, gotten off to a roaring start. Let’s hope he can build on his already impressive track record this summer.