It’s been 11 days since Magic Johnson abruptly announced that he was stepping down as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. But while he’s tweeting his happy heart out, the organization he left behind is looking to fill the void.
Several big names have been floated around as potential replacements for Johnson, and there have even been rumors that his replacement is currently working in a playoff team’s front office, but Ramona Shelburne of ESPN once again questioned how much truth there was to any of those rumors during an appearance on ESPN Radio’s “Mason and Ireland” on Friday:
“Everything I hear from people who would know is denials of this white knight theory, and the idea that they’re still processing and deciding everything else... Most likely it’s just Rob makes the hire here, Rob continues on and this is what’s happening.”
That deflating news led to this interesting exchange between hosts John Ireland and Steve Mason and Shelburne:
“I talked to some of his former clients, because I’m trying to figure that exact question out. Why Rob? ... One of his clients flat-out said ‘that guy got the best deal for me by any means necessary.’
“That’s why people don’t like him. By any means necessary. So, I don’t know, is that a bad thing? ... Look, Rob was the guy making all the incremental moves to get the cap space that ended up turning into LeBron. All those other trades, that was Rob. Magic was overseeing it.”
So this is the hill that Jeanie is going to die on?
“Yeah that’s what it seems like.”
Doesn’t she realize that right now the blowback is fully on her?
“I think she does, yeah... If you torch the hill that you’re on right now, what does that do to your relationship with Kobe? What does that do to your initial decision to put Rob in this role? If you really believe in this guy.”
Shelburne didn’t completely close the door on there being a secret executive, though, and because of the sensitive nature of a covert (and illegal under NBA rules) operation like that would, she said it’s completely possible that the people she’s talked to within the organization are keeping her in the dark.
That being said, Shelburne also still believe it’s highly unlikely:
“I’m fully aware that if something big was happening the circle on this would be extremely tight. It would be extremely tight. People think that I’m very close to the Lakers, and yeah, obviously I have good information, but there is no way I could know this. They would not tell me because I would have to report it. I would have to. There’s no ‘okay, sit on this for two weeks.’ There’s no way. I can’t.”
So are you the best source for this?
”Probably not, because you’d lie to my face... I don’t think people are lying to me. I just don’t. I make calls outside to people who would tell me if they knew, and the circle of people who I think would know, I don’t think they’re lying either.”
The truth is that no one seems to know exactly what’s going on with the Lakers, so even people that are used to having scoops are left to make educated guesses about what it is they’re doing. Regardless of what the front office ultimately decides to do, though, they’re in kind of a lose-lose situation.
Let’s go through the scenarios, shall we?
Scenario one: The Lakers go forth with Pelinka as their president of basketball operations — or equivalent — in spite of reports that executives around the league don’t fancy him and that he isn’t always the most collaborative person in the room.
Scenario two: The Lakers do actually have plans to replace Magic Johnson, but they haven’t gotten around to it yet and in the meantime, they’re going to let Rob Pelinka and a group of advisors hire the team’s next head coach.
Scenario three: The Lakers are in fact secretly communicating with an executive that currently works for a playoff team and are running the risk of being penalized for tampering for the third time in a span of two years.
You can rank them whichever way you want, but none of them are great options. Let’s hope the Lakers ultimately decide on the one that’s least detrimental to the team, whichever that one may be (IT’S DEFINITELY NOT NUMBER THREE). For now, at least the picture of what is going on is a little clearer than it was before Shelburne’s radio appearance.