There has been a lot of speculation about who the Los Angeles Lakers will replace former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson with, or if they’ll even do so, but the answer always seems to return to the same conclusion: That general manager Rob Pelinka is already taking over that role.
It was already reported last week that there was no secret candidate to replace Johnson and that this would be Pelinka’s show to run, but Sam Amick and Bill Oram of The Athletic more extensively confirmed those rumors, clarifying that the Lakers haven’t even tried to recruit or gauge the interest of the bigger name executives that so many speculated they might attempt to lure:
Yet while rumblings remain that Buss might replace Johnson with an elite front office executive at some point, and with so much pressure from local and national media to conduct a comprehensive search for a new president of basketball operations who isn’t required to have deep Lakers ties, a source with knowledge of Jeanie’s plan insists that this front office is Pelinka’s to run. At least for now.
According to sources, the Lakers never reached out to LeBron’s former general manager in Cleveland, Dave Griffin, before he agreed to join New Orleans. Sources also say that they haven’t reached out to the Warriors regarding general manager Bob Myers. Ditto for Jerry West, the Clippers consultant who told The Athletic recently that he wasn’t sure what his future held past this summer but now appears likely to remain in his current role going forward (ideas had circulated about West possibly heading for the Lakers alongside a younger, high-level GM).
Amick and Oram also mentioned that there had been speculation in the media about Pat Riley potentially returning to South Bay, but also noted that he had shut down those whispers himself, and he’s also done so through the media.
For his part, Myers laughed off rumors that he would have interest in the Lakers job earlier this month, although he did so in such a way that wasn’t really a denial. It seems it doesn’t matter, because the Lakers aren’t going to target him anyway, or his former co-worker Jerry West.
And without any of those guys on the way, it seems like it really will be Pelinka running point in the front office, according to Oram and Amick:
Matters like these can always change, of course, but all early signs point to Pelinka remaining as the head of the front office.
The coaching search alone has proved that much. According to sources, Pelinka has led the way in the organizing and interviewing of candidates Ty Lue, Monty Williams, Juwan Howard and Jason Kidd after former coach Luke Walton decided to head for Sacramento back on April 12. Until further notice, in other words, this is all on Pelinka – and friends.
Some of those friends include the Lakers’ coaching interview contingent, made up of Pelinka himself, Jeanie Buss, her brothers Jesse and Joey Buss, Linda and Kurt Rambis, and Lakers chief operating officer Tim Harris, or as some have called them, the dream team*. Amick and Oram’s article delves into their qualifications in a bit more depth.
Look, this isn’t the sexiest scenario, or the one Lakers fans were hoping for. It was far more comforting to believe that the Lakers had somehow kept a huge name executive under wraps, and that someone who is proven to know what they’re doing was pulling the strings in secret before eventually revealing themselves when their team was eliminated from the playoffs.
All that is still theoretically possible of course — and would constitute massive violations of tampering rules, but I digress — however, when this many league insiders are saying something isn’t happening, it’s usually not going to happen. For now, Lakers fans are going to be left hoping that Johnson really was the problem, because otherwise the solution just appears to be a lot of the same, just in increased roles. Only time will tell whether or not that works out for the Lakers.
*no one has called them this.