It’s been almost three weeks since Magic Johnson resigned from his position as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers and the wide belief around the league is that general manager Rob Pelinka will step into a larger role with the team.
The Lakers hired Pelinka in 2017 and since then, he’s garnered mixed reviews from rival executives. While there are some feel that Pelinka is difficult to work with, others have had glowing things to say about the former player agent, according to Sam Amick and Bill Oram of The Athletic:
But there are also respected power brokers who say they’ve had functional and positive experiences in dealing with Pelinka, and who believe that his background as a player (he went to two Finals Fours with those Fab Five Michigan teams), attorney and prominent agent who built and ran his own agency is a functional fit for the Lakers. What’s more, Pelinka was widely known to be handling the lion’s share of the daily duties before Johnson’s departure. He was, in essence, running the front office already.
Johnson being an absent president of basketball operations as hardly breaking news, but the fact that Pelinka picked up his slack during that time is relatively new information, for better or for worse. However, even though Johnson wasn’t too involved in the day-to-day basketball operations, he reportedly was more popular than Pelinka was in some circles:
Among his most ardent critics, the failed Davis trade talks in February provided a flashpoint that they say shouldn’t be forgotten: then-Pelicans general manager Dell Demps wouldn’t respond to Pelinka, choosing only to engage when Johnson took part.
Pelinka’s bad reputation around the NBA has some rival executives questioning whether or not he’s capable of being the head honcho in Los Angeles:
Is Pelinka capable of steering them out of this abyss – hiring the right coach to replace the departed Luke Walton, closing a deal or two along the way – and fulfilling their title-contending dreams?
It depends on who you ask, but the vast majority of agents and executives polled by The Athletic have serious doubts. Pelinka has no shortage of detractors around the league, with the issues raised ranging from his trustworthiness to his communication style and relatability. The question of trust has dogged Pelinka since 2004, when his then-client, Carlos Boozer, reneged on a verbal commitment to re-sign with Cleveland only to take a more lucrative offer with Utah.
These are the thoughts shared by many Lakers fans as well and unless Pelinka hits the ground running this offseason, the skeptics will likely grow by the masses. For his sake and the sake of the team, let’s hope he can show he’s more than the sum of his parts.