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Magic Johnson calls Rob Pelinka talking behind his back a ‘betrayal,’ points to it as major reason he left Lakers

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Magic Johnson did not hold back when he was asked about his departure from the Lakers, and specifically his issues with Rob Pelinka.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

As if the Los Angeles Lakers don’t have enough on their plate, former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson hopped on First Take to shed light on his time running the team and the led to his eventual departure. In typical Magic form, he did not leave very much unsaid.

While Johnson was president of basketball operations, you didn’t exactly have to search far and wide to confirm rumors about his, er, inconsistent work ethic. Weeks would pass between his appearances at the team offices, and according to Johnson, Pelinka did all he could to benefit from that inconsistency.

“Things got going in the right direction (during my first season). And then I started hearing ‘Magic you’re not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office.’ People around the Laker office was telling me Rob was saying things... I didn’t like those things being said behind my back, that I wasn’t in the office enough, and so on and on. So I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball, saying those things now were said to them, outside of basketball. Now it’s not just in the Laker office anymore, it’s in the media and so on. And people got to remember something: Being in this business for over 40 years, I got allies, I got friends everywhere, right?”

So, a couple things here: Pelinka could have handled getting the word out there about concerns he had with Johnson’s work ethic better. Such conversations should take place in private between the interested parties.

That said, if Johnson didn’t like Pelinka taking advantage of his poor work ethic, he could always, you know, show up for his damn job.

Johnson was asked if what he called “backstabbing” on the day he resigned went beyond Pelinka:

“No, just Rob. I think that other people didn’t bother me. It’s really funny as I sit here, I don’t worry about those type of things. I’m not a guy who is like ‘oh man, they said this about me and I worry about it. What happened was I wasn’t having fun coming to work anymore. Especially when I’ve got to work beside you, knowing that you want my position. And I’m okay with that. Because this is what happened, Stephen A. I told him in year two, ‘I’m only going to be here three years. So my job, Rob, is to get you ready for this position.’ I was going to help elevate him to the president’s position.

“So when all this was coming back to me, and guys calling me and saying ‘you better watch out for him. And what was crazy was, when I took the job, you know how many agents called me and said ‘you’ve got to watch out for him (Pelinka)’? And I said ‘well, I’ve got to give the guy a fair chance, you know, I can’t listen to people.’ He was a hard worker, smart guy, but now you have that position, so I’m good with that.”

It really says something about Johnson’s wild appearance on ESPN that he could tuck away a detail so inflammatory as him only planning to hold his job as president of basketball operations three total years heading in and that hardly registers on the scale of huge stuff he said Monday morning.

With all this said, did Magic want Pelinka fired at any point?

“No, we never had a discussion about that. What I wanted to do was bring in my coach. If you’re gonna judge me, you’ve got to judge me by me bringing in my own people.”

This is a weird answer, to be honest. Pelinka very clearly wasn’t one of Johnson’s “people,” based on what he said on First Take on Monday morning, but somehow didn’t warrant a dismissal despite betraying Johnson’s trust in this manner? It begs the question of what the point any of this is, really. Either you should have taken care of business by addressing your own professionalism, or fired the guy who you still believe was stabbing you in the back. Passing on any action at all only to whine about it on national TV isn’t a great look.

And yet, there went Johnson, continuing to whine about it on national TV, continuing when he was :

“If you’re going to talk ‘betrayal,’ that’s only with Rob.”

This has been said a few times and will be repeated: No one walked away from Johnson’s appearance looking good. At this point, everyone knows about how poorly the team is run. Johnson comes off as a bitter ex willing to throw dirt on the significant other who wronged him.

All the while, by the way, Frank Vogel is hours away from being introduced. Because of course.

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