Since the conclusion of the 2018-19 NBA season, it has been a drama-filled offseason for owner Jeanie Buss and the Los Angeles Lakers.
A month after former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson suddenly resigned before the team’s final game against the Portland Trail Blazers, he appeared on ESPN’s First Take — the same day the Lakers introduced head coach Frank Vogel to replace head coach Luke Walton.
As Johnson accused general manager Rob Pelinka of ‘backstabbing’ him, the latter was saddened by these ‘simply untrue’ comments about himself.
And now, there are new details about Johnson’s message to the Lakers organization when he became the president of basketball operations during the 2016-17 NBA season, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN:
In his remarks, Johnson expressed excitement about the task ahead, but he also made clear he didn’t accept excuses or mistakes, and that those who weren’t on board with the new management and their mission should leave, according to six staffers who were present. Pointing upstairs, toward his office, Johnson drove home his point. He had a large stack of resumes sitting on his desk — “a thousand” of them, multiple staffers recall him saying — and he could replace any of them at any time.
An anonymous front office staff also revealed Johnson ‘used intimidation and bullying’ during his 2.5 seasons as president of basketball operations:
The message would set the tone for what many staffers describe as Johnson’s confrontational demeanor over the next two years. “If you questioned him on anything, his response was always a threatening tone,” said a Lakers front office staffer who interacted with Johnson directly. “He used intimidation and bullying as a way of showing authority.”
Since Johnson’s resignation, there have been conflicting reports about him and the Lakers. Outside of Pelinka’s appearances at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery and Vogel’s introductory press conference, Buss has stayed silent except for a social media post of her and Johnson having dinner.
By Buss not addressing the current state of the Lakers, it has caused unrest among the fanbase and these damaging reports only add to the concerns. For a team looking to compete again, they have shown nothing but instability.
In the most important offseason in team history, these reports will likely impact free agency. Despite free agents having an opportunity to play with LeBron James and perhaps the young core, it would not be surprising to see All-Star players go elsewhere because of this dysfunction.