Prior to the team’s final game of the 2018-19 NBA season against the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson suddenly stepped down during an impromptu press conference at the Staples Center.
While Johnson was expected to fire head coach Luke Walton first after three seasons, no one could have predicted him resigning before one of the most important offseasons in team history.
For the first time, Johnson addressed his ‘backstabbing’ and ‘whispering’ comments during last month’s press conference, via ESPN’s First Take:
“I start hearing, ‘Magic, you not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office.’ So, people around the Lakers office was telling me Rob was saying things and 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, not just in the Lakers office anymore, now it’s in the media and so on.”
When Stephen A. Smith asked if anyone else in the Lakers organization backstabbed him, Johnson made it clear it was only Pelinka:
“No, just Rob. Other people didn’t bother me… I wasn’t having fun coming to work anymore. Especially when I got to work beside you, knowing that you want my position.”
Since Johnson’s resignation, owner Jeanie Buss and company have been heavily criticized. From the Lakers staying extremely quiet to the team’s interesting coaching search that led to former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue ending contract negotiations, these latest comments by Johnson certainly do not help them to begin the offseason.
As Johnson’s comments about Pelinka confirm some reports, the team’s general manager revealed his role has not changed at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery. While it may not have changed, the Lakers recently decided not to hire a new president of basketball operations and Pelinka will report directly to ownership moving forward.
With the Lakers set to introduce new head coach Frank Vogel, it will be interesting to see if Pelinka addresses Johnson’s comments. Although Los Angeles has more options heading into the 2019 NBA Draft with the No. 4 pick, it does not matter if potential players view them as an unstable organization.