The Los Angeles Lakers announced that general manager Rob Pelinka was being promoted to the title of vice president, basketball operations in a statement released on Friday. Pelinka will additionally keep his title of general manager. According to a couple of ESPN’s biggest insiders, Pelinka also got a contract extension as part of the move:
Pelinka agreed to a five-year contract upon his hiring in 2017, and now gets an extension on the heels of acquiring LeBron James and Anthony Davis and reshaping a lottery roster into a championship contender. https://t.co/dWfd5SXOXQ— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 11, 2020
Here is part of the statement from the Lakers announcing the change, including some of the first public comments of the season from Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss:
Pelinka, who was hired as the Lakers General Manager in March 2017, has helped transform the Lakers roster and basketball operations department. Pelinka orchestrated one of the biggest trades in franchise history last offseason, acquiring six-time All-Star Anthony Davis and signing key free agents to the revamped roster. He also retooled the coaching staff, hiring a veteran group with a variety of experiences. During the 2018 offseason, Pelinka made one of the most significant signings in franchise history, with the acquisition of four-time MVP LeBron James.
“I’m extremely pleased with the work Rob has done in order to put this franchise in a position for success, “said Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss. “His strong leadership skills, as well as his commitment to building a winning culture, both on and off the court, have brought us one step closer to being a championship-caliber team and I look forward to our continued work together.”
This promotion on some level appears to be a reward for how well the Lakers have started this year — at 30-7 heading into their game against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night, the Lakers have the best record in the Western Conference — as well as officially making Pelinka the replacement for former President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson, who left the franchise on the final night of the 2019 regular season and was never replaced in name, even if Pelinka did functionally take on his role already.
And as an aside, it is funny that while some of the reports on this move have called Pelinka the new vice president of basketball operations, the Lakers did make his official title “vice president, basketball operations” as it is written in the headline and first sentence above. The last time the Lakers had a vice president of basketball operations was Jim Buss, so it is amusing that (intentionally or not) this is the second straight lead executive that they’ve made sure to give a different title to in order to ensure they don’t sound the same as the man who presided over the least successful Lakers run in franchise history.
If it makes Jim feel better, he is not the only former Lakers exec to catch some subtle shade in the announcement of this move:
I just realized the press release the Lakers sent out said Rob Pelinka signed LeBron James lmaoooooo pic.twitter.com/Jqcdtx7d1z— Christian Rivas (@RadRivas) January 11, 2020
But funny notes aside, it’s hard to argue that Pelinka didn’t earn this reward. There was considerable skepticism about the Lakers’ decision to just hand the reins of the team solely to a former agent whose only previous front office experience was a) as part of a regime that appeared fairly dysfunctional at the time and b) came with allegations of backstabbing from the guy who just quit, and not insignificant rumors that he was seen as untrustworthy by more than just Johnson (rumors that were later somewhat pushed back on).
All Pelinka has done to reward Buss’ faith in him is put together a roster with the best record in the conference after completely overhauling the team in free agency and trading for Anthony Davis, all while building a culture of competitiveness and where superstars feel like partners along the way. While it will never be knowable if the Lakers could have lured a better executive to lead their team — because that’s both subjective and theoretical — it seems clear so far that they landed a pretty sharp one, so it’s no surprise they want to keep him around a while longer.