When Magic Johnson spoke about the disarray of the Lakers franchise Monday, his primary target was Rob Pelinka. Johnson claimed that multiple people throughout the league told him to watch out for Pelinka, and that Pelinka called out Johnson’s work ethic in an insidious manner by pointing out his absences from the front office.
There is one prominent executive who rejects Johnson’s characterization of Pelinka, however, and his word holds a great deal of weight in the Laker family. Miami Heat president Pat Riley told ESPN that he’s never had a problem with Pelinka, who represented Heat players such as Chris Bosh, Derrick Williams, and Dion Waiters before moving into the Los Angeles front office.
Riley is a well-respected executive around the league, and his opinion bodes well for the Lakers, who will likely be active trying to make deals this offseason with Pelinka at the helm.
Riley did acknowledge that there is still probably conflict within the organization, and that Magic wouldn’t be Magic if he held his feelings about that in:
”But this kind of s--- goes on in organizations every day,” Riley says. “The organization gets too big, there are too many people who have been around a long time, and they start voicing their opinion about things, and that’s when the culture starts to crack.
”Maybe Earvin’s honesty will do something to get [the Lakers] thinking.”
Even if he didn’t agree with Johnson about Pelinka, it seems like Riley is on board with Johnson’s criticism that too many people were involved in decision-making. In Miami, Riley is only answerable to owner Micky Arison, and Johnson clearly hoped for a similar arrangement in Los Angeles with Jeanie Buss.
Johnson’s outburst didn’t provoke any immediate change in the organizational set up, but Riley did suggested a solution if problems were to persist.
“When I was there, it was always about Jerry and his kids,” Riley said. “What you’re seeing is all part of the family growing into the next phase. If they don’t feel like anybody [from within] is ready to step in, then you hire someone. But once that happens, everyone has to stay in their own lane.”
Riley is far from the first person to suggest that the team should hire an additional executive to stabilize the hierarchy, and he probably won’t be the last. For now, however, the Lakers seem confident enough in their own roles to eschew outside help, but it’s an interesting suggestion to consider down the road should the front office not deliver on the potential of this offseason. After all, even Miami looked outside its own walls to bring in Riley, and that worked out pretty splendidly for the Heat.