This Los Angeles Lakers season has not gone as planned, and with that, people are going to find someone to point fingers at and blame for the team’s porous 27-34 record.
The truth is that no one is blameless for the Lakers’ struggles as ownership, the front office, coaching staff and players have all contributed to it.
One man who will ultimately be held responsible though is vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka since he put the team together.
Pelinka’s tenure with the Lakers has been filled with ups and downs as he first famously had a rift with Magic Johnson, leading to the latter resigning from the front office. He then was able to complete the Anthony Davis trade, paving the way for the organization’s 17th championship in 2020.
Since then though, it’s been all downhill, with Pelinka choosing to completely remodel the Lakers roster in each of the last two offseasons, with the big move to acquire Russell Westbrook perhaps being his biggest mistake.
Even though Pelinka may not have wanted to make that move, instead preferring to trade for Buddy Hield while LeBron James and Davis wanted Westbrook according to reports, he still ultimately pulled the trigger and the Lakers are now suffering the consequences for it.
While Pelinka still holds strong relationships in the organization, his future with the Lakers beyond this season is uncertain, via Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report:
Pelinka’s circumstances are far cloudier than Vogel’s. A franchise so rooted in its history, with a management focused on upholding a familial feel, deeply values its connection with the man who long represented Kobe Bryant. Former players, not just Magic Johnson, and other Lakers power brokers such as Kurt and Linda Rambis have always held prominent voices in Los Angeles’ decision making. Pelinka is said to still have strong support from those Lakers figures.
“His relationship with Kurt and Linda and Jeanie, it is very much a mom and pop shop,” one assistant general manager told B/R.
While Pelinka’s relationships within the Lakers are good, the same can’t be said with other teams, which is why the Lakers may have to make a change:
Sacramento staffers were largely made aware of the Wizards trade when the deal framework was reported publicly, sources said, rather than being informed by Lakers brass. Several rival front offices have indicated Pelinka has lacked when it comes to working with opposing teams.
“He wasn’t returning some teams calls at [this year’s] deadline,” one general manager told B/R.
“He was an asshole as an agent,” said another assistant general manager. “He had the most powerful players and if he wanted the player moved, he would’ve eviscerated you as a staff to get whatever he wanted. You can’t do that to people, and then expect them to work with you when you join their side.”
Firing Pelinka outright may be a possibility, but the Lakers could also keep him and bring someone in to work alongside him:
Perhaps there’s an alternative avenue in Los Angeles, where the franchise retains Pelinka under his current title of vice president of basketball operations and general manager, and hires another executive as president, similar to how Magic Johnson originally held the president position alongside Pelinka.
While that didn’t work out so well when Pelinka was paired with Johnson, perhaps bringing in someone with more front office experience will change things.
James recently had high praise for Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti and reports indicated he was looking to bring him to the Lakers, although getting him to leave Oklahoma City would be no easy task.
Regardless though, it seems that big changes are coming for the Lakers this offseason if they are not able to turn this season around.
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