At the conclusion of the 2018-19 NBA season, Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were widely expected to fire head coach Luke Walton after three seasons.
Instead, prior to the team’s final game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Johnson resigned at an impromptu press conference at the Staples Center.
While the Lakers still fired Walton, many wondered who would be Johnson’s replacement. However, during the team’s coaching search, it became apparent Pelinka and senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis had significant roles in hiring former Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel a month later.
Since the Lakers reportedly will not hire a new president of basketball operations, owner Jeanie Buss considered ‘several’ options before this decision, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
Buss considered several options after Johnson’s departure, including replacing him, the source said. However, she has since decided to continue with Pelinka as her top basketball decision-maker.
As Pelinka will be reporting to ownership directly moving forward in the same role, Rambis will remain in his current role, according to Shelburne:
Kurt Rambis will remain as a special advisor.
When Pelinka was empowered to conduct the team’s coaching search, it was clear the Lakers had no plans to hire Johnson’s replacement. If they were serious about filling that role, it would have been the very first move of the offseason in order to give the new president of basketball operations the ability to decide on Pelinka’s future and the new head coach.
As the Lakers finally have an answer to a major question, the hope is they can stabilize themselves while focusing on the 2019 NBA Draft and free agency. While there has been speculation about Anthony Davis, the Pelicans reportedly do not want to trade him to Los Angeles.
If that remains the case, the Lakers still have options via trade. Depending on how free agency goes, the Lakers reportedly could pursue Bradley Beal as the second All-Star player alongside LeBron James.
With the Wizards currently looking for a new president of basketball operations, Beal could be in line for a supermax contract extension if he makes a 2018-19 All-NBA Team. As John Wall’s contract extension officially begins at the start of the 2019-20 season, the Wizards may want to begin their rebuilding process since he recovering from an Achilles injury.
Regardless of what happens, Buss will either be praised or criticized for this decision depending on how James and the Lakers perform in Year 2.