With the Los Angeles Lakers preparing for themselves for their latest “most important offseason in franchise history,” quite a bit of looking back on recent mistakes has taken place — though with precious little actual accountability for said errors in judgment.
One major hangup over the course of last season was the handling of trade talks with the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis. In Baxtor Holmes of ESPN’s piece on the dysfunction that defined the Lakers while Magic Johnson was tasked with running things, there appears to be a chasm in the organization as it pertains to how that went down:
Johnson also said he believed the New Orleans Pelicans operated in bad faith during negotiations for Davis. “We knew that basically at the end of the day, what happened, happened,” he said.
Said one Lakers front-office staffer: “What wasn’t in good faith? We proposed something and they turned it down. It’s very arrogant on our part.”
This point is quite honestly one of the least-talked-about points that has to be repeated: The Lakers were trying to get New Orleans to do something they did not want to do (trade their franchise player). There is no such thing as bad faith here. The Lakers simply overplayed their hand in trying to acquire Davis from a franchise that was not all that interested in moving him and failed.
In this case, the staffer is absolutely correct in their analysis of the situation. What’s interesting is that they didn’t stop there:
Meanwhile, considerable doubt remained within the Lakers organization over the ability of Pelinka and Johnson to plot a path toward contention.
As that same front-office staffer said before Johnson’s resignation, “I don’t think we have a plan.”
In his appearance on ESPN’s “The Lowe Post,” after his story dropped, Holmes elaborated about how it wasn’t just the staffer above who felt that way:
“I heard many instances of that particular thing, of people and people close to those people describing ‘We don’t trust the decision-making process. We feel like these are unilateral managers.’
“I thought it was telling that people in the organization, I think it was mentioned in the Spellman anecdote, that Rob will go and say to people ‘We’re making this decision because this player wants it, or this agent wants it,’ and people had become so distrustful of him that they will literally go back to that player or to that agent and say ‘Hey did that conversation ever actually happen? Did you say these things that Rob said you said? What was the context here?’ I thought that was interesting, like fact-checking the reasoning behind it.
“But people not being on the same page, this uncertainty of about how decisions are being made, ‘what information are we using,’ ‘is this information credible,’ ‘are we even consulting with people in our organization who have first-hand experience with maybe this particular player,’ it creates a rat’s nest of issues with respect to team building. Free agency, drafts, trades, all of it.”
Look, leaks like this don’t come out from staffers who feel like their voices are being heard within the organization. If they don’t feel properly valued in this respect, they’re going to be willing to throw dirt on whoever it was they felt was minimizing them at that time.
In this case, Johnson seems to have been simply awful to work for, at least according to Holmes’ piece and some of the reporting he’s done after the fact, even while Johnson has denied such abuse.
But despite Johnson disputing Holmes’ reporting, all these leaks scream of at the very least distrust throughout the organization, a problem that doesn’t seem to be solved given what all of these staffers are leaking about Pelinka. The Lakers may clearly be better off without Johnson, but things clearly haven’t simply been solved by his departure, either.
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