The dust is still settling from Magic Johnson and his shocking choice to abruptly step down as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. His decision has opened up quite possibly one of the more desirable jobs the NBA has ever seen and, as a result, there are quite a few interested parties willing to give their two cents on what needs to be done next.
Rob Pelinka is currently the team’s general manager, and seems set to stick around, even if that’s obviously subject to change. And if you go by what some executives around the league said about him to Brad Turner of the L.A. Times, it seems like they’d prefer a change be made.
One general manager said they were willing to deal with the inexperienced Johnson when he had the job, but that front office people did not have a good relationship with Pelinka from his days as an agent representing Kobe Bryant and other high-profile players.
“Magic was the person people wanted to try to give a pass to,” one Eastern Conference general manger said.”
Worth mentioning here is that Johnson might not be nearly the negotiator Pelinka likely is, so maybe that’s another reason they preferred to negotiate with him. That isn’t what Johnson was hired to do.
However, according to Turner’s report, there are also other reasons that executives around the league prefer to work with Magic, reasons that should give Pelinka’s proponents in the organization legitimate pause:
So how does one do business with Pelinka?
“Obviously you can’t. I can’t,” an agent said. “I haven’t even done any business with him, because either I don’t have something that he wants or he just won’t respond to stuff.”
So in the interest of complete fairness, we should note that the Lakers president of basketball operations gig is so promising that some executives around the league are going to be positioning themselves for it as best they can. Even if they don’t actually land the job, at the very least, they may try leveraging it for a raise with their current team.
Also, these executives likely aren’t speaking out of some altruistic desire to help the Lakers. Anytime the competition shows a willingness to aid an organization like L.A., it’s absolutely fair (if not outright prudent) to wonder what their angle might be.
Still, given that executives and agents rarely take the extraordinary step of voicing that they don’t like working with a potential trade or free agency partner, respectively, it seems like those around the league really may just have serious issues with Pelinka, issues that might keep the Lakers from being able to sign certain players or negotiate trades with certain teams.
It’s becoming increasingly evident that Pelinka’s reputation around the NBA is at a place where not only would it be difficult to repair it on the job, and his presence might also preclude the Lakers from landing an elite candidate to replace Magic should the team attempt to go in that direction.
Let’s put it this way: Why would Pat Riley, Bob Myers, or any other executive capable of turning around the Lakers work with anyone other than someone they hired themselves, let alone alongside someone known for lying in the way Pelinka is at this point? (Here’s your answer: They wouldn’t)
Jeanie Buss is taking her time on this decision, as she probably should. Now, she doesn’t have forever to make this decision and, based on Turner’s reporting, keeping Pelinka would make it more difficult to work with other teams, and would also probably eliminate the Lakers from the likes of the executives they desperately need given the state of things right now.
Buss has been shown to be loyal above almost everything else. In this case, keeping Pelinka, given what executives and agents are saying about working with him and the opportunity cost associated with the decision, this would be loyalty to a fault.