After a drama-filled start to the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers landed the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and introduced new head coach Frank Vogel.
As the Lakers shifted their focus to improving the roster for the 2019-20 NBA season, ESPN published their much-anticipated story about former president basketball operations Magic Johnson’s 2.5 seasons before his resignation.
Highlighted by Johnson reportedly using ‘intimidation and bullying’ with staffers, his decisions at the 2018 NBA Draft and free agency were also questioned within the team and provided more examples of dysfunction.
During ESPN’s 2019 NBA Finals preview special with Stephen A. Smith, Johnson was one of his guests and addressed the story, via SportsCenter:
“I’ve never sat in an HR person’s office in 35 years. Two years with the Lakers, no HR appearance. Do you think Jeanie Buss would allow me to abuse the employees? If that was the case, she would’ve called me in… I’m a person who brings everybody together, uplifting employees. I’ve never abused an employee and I never will. That’s not what I’m all about.”
As Johnson denied the allegations, there are examples that demonstrate his confrontational demeanor, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN:
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.”
If this is how Johnson truly treated staffers, then perhaps his sudden resignation to conclude the 2018-19 season was a good step for the Lakers. However, there are still conflicting reports about who owner Jeanie Buss surrounds herself with — especially general manager Rob Pelinka.
In the most important offseason in team history, Los Angeles has shown instability and they have stayed silent over the past month. Through all of these reports and out of the front office, Pelinka has been the only one who has spoken at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery and Vogel’s press conference.
As the Lakers were extremely fortunate to move up seven spots and land the No. 4 pick, all of the attention is on free agency. Even before all of this drama, it appeared a second All-Star player was not going to sign with them.