We’ve heard multiple reports now that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka’s job is safe even as the purple and gold rapidly spiral towards another lost season, and it’s become clear that the same goes for the team’s official senior basketball advisor and unofficial Shadow GM, Kurt Rambis.
Not only did Marc Stein report in his Substack a week ago that Kurt, his wife Linda, and Pelinka were all “firmly entrenched as a pillar of the club’s four-pronged brain trust alongside (Jeanie) Buss,” but now Bill Oram and Sam Amick of The Athletic confirmed on Monday morning that the Rambii are still “incredibly influential” (emphasis mine):
Then there are the Rambises. Kurt Rambis remains incredibly influential, the former Laker and Phil Jackson friend/coaching disciple acting as Pelinka’s right-hand man in the front office under the title of senior basketball advisor. His failures in non-Lakers ventures, both as head coach in Minnesota and the Knicks when he worked under Jackson, simply don’t matter when it comes to the calculus or his stature here.
That last bit is not exactly surprising, especially when considering that the man at the helm for the latter failures, Phil Jackson, has become an “unofficial consultant” as well.
Sources say Jackson, the Lakers legend and ex-fiancé of Buss, whose presence at Saturday’s win against Golden State was highlighted by the team’s Twitter account, has been in frequent contact with Buss about team matters all season long. The complicated and often uncomfortable dynamics surrounding the Westbrook situation, in particular, are known to have drawn his interest. As unofficial consultants go, they don’t get much more experienced or credible than Jackson.
Truth be told, Buss’ desire to hear Jackson’s point of view on this team should surprise no one. Especially because of his close ties with Rambis, who — like Pelinka with Bryant — has the kind of close connection with Jackson that has long been considered a factor when it comes to his own stature.
Now, how much does this matter? I would be lying if I pretended to know. Maybe Jackson is just weighing in with his thoughts a bit, and maybe none of this is that big of a deal. A little extra input never hurt anyone, after all, and it’s certainly not all that shocking he’s being asked for it, considering the insular way this team has operated in the past and all the leaks this season about who has power behind the scenes.
Honestly, at this point, it would be more shocking if the Lakers weren’t bringing in another former Laker to give their thoughts. It’s just what they do.
The Zen Master is in the building pic.twitter.com/my55FYCKms— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 6, 2022
But as nice and nostalgic as it is to see Jackson healthy and well, and as accomplished as he was as a coach — the GOAT emoji above is well-deserved, as he is maybe the greatest ever in that profession — he was a miserable failure as an executive with the Knicks, just as Rambis was during his past head coaching opportunities. So while it’s not surprising on a human level that Buss, like anyone facing adversity, is leaning on those closest to her for advice, it once again begs the question: Do the Lakers know anyone that is not a former Laker, former Pelinka client, or current Klutch client? Are they going to consult any outside voices at some point?
We won’t know the answer to that question until the offseason, but with the way this team keeps doubling down on nepotism, it would be nice if at some point they at least gave the family members who have actually shown a level of basketball evaluation ability — Joey and Jesse Buss — a bit of power and say here.
Maybe that’s coming, but if there is no hope of help from the outside, the two guys with the last name Buss who have been integral in the team’s vaunted scouting efforts — and were just named by The Athletic as two of the 40 most promising NBA figures under the age of 40 in large part due to their scouting and player development success — may have earned a bit more of a voice on things.
At the very least, that slowly might be coming (Via The Athletic):
The Buss brothers have had emerging voices in the Lakers front office since Magic Johnson exited the organization. They have contributed to some recent under-the-radar finds for L.A. — like second-round pick Talen Horton-Tucker and the undrafted Austin Reaves — with Jesse’s scouting portfolio and Joey overseeing player development. They also are positioned as the future of the Lakers ownership group behind their older sister, Jeanie.
And we know, courtesy of Magic Johnson, that they have been interested in more of a say for a while, too.
Something that got lost when Magic was airing out Lakers dirty laundry pic.twitter.com/EcUtsEhFCc— Ralph Mason (@Ralph_MasonJr) March 4, 2022
So, again, if the team is going to go all-in on internal voices... it might be worth empowering the ones who have actually proven themselves in player personnel a bit more than digging in on retreads. That doesn’t mean that Jackson, Pelinka, and the Rambii can’t have a voice in things — because that’s clearly not going away anytime soon — but perhaps it’s time for them to no longer be the loudest ones.