The Los Angeles Lakers continue to rebuild their franchise around young talent with the hope that it will pay off sooner rather than later. This past season saw them take a leap forward in that effort as they now possess not only young talent but also an identity.
This is thanks to the leadership of president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka, who took over the Lakers during the 2016-17 NBA season. They, along with head coach Luke Walton, have encouraged a style of play that is highlighted by stingy defense and a fast-paced offense.
Assistant general manager Jesse Buss spoke to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report about Johnson’s leadership style, and he explained how his on-court demeanor has translated to his role as at the head of basketball operations:
“Magic, in particular, he obviously was the leader of the franchise for a very long time [as a player],” Buss said. “He has his form of leadership, holding people accountable, [asking us] to bring your ‘A-Game,’ do your job. This is what you’re here for, and I’ll pass you the ball. He’s very collaborative. As long as you can finish the bucket on the fast break, you’re going to get the ball.”
When Johnson was brought in, however, he was not an expert in contract negotiations or the ins and outs of the salary cap. In order to fill that void, the Lakers also added a former agent in Pelinka as the team’s general manager.
Buss explained Pelinka’s style of leadership, noting that it mimics that of Lakers legend (and former Pelinka client) Kobe Bryant:
“Rob’s leadership style reminds me of how Kobe was as a player,” he continued. “I’m trying to perfect my craft, and I bring 100 percent every single day, and I want you to bring the same. … I’m going to put my trust in you, and as long as I know that I’m able to ride with you along the way and I trust your ability, we’re going to work great together. Very Kobesque.”
Thanks to the complementary leadership styles of Johnson and Pelinka, the Lakers are now in a position where the future appears to be growing brighter by the day. They have amassed a wealth of young talent like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Julius Randle to build around.
Furthermore, the team will have more cap space to spend this summer than any team in the league, giving them the possibility of chasing after a pair of max-level players. It will take a stroke of luck, but if everything falls into place Johnson and Pelinka could put together a contending team as soon as next season.
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