Since Magic Johnson resigned as the Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations more than a month ago, many still wonder what ultimately led to his surprising decision.
While Johnson did not deny wanting to fire head coach Luke Walton at the conclusion of the 2018-19 NBA season, he mentioned his frustration with the ‘backstabbing’ and ‘whispering’ that was happening. When asked for specifics, he declined at his impromptu press conference.
Since then, there have been conflicting reports about Johnson’s resignation and general manager Rob Pelinka’s reputation around the league.
Before the Lakers introduced new head coach Frank Vogel, Johnson appeared on ESPN’s First Take and acknowledged he was in fact referring to Pelinka. And at Vogel’s press conference, Pelinka responded to Johnson’s comments about what was going on behind the scenes.
“I think the most important thing for me is the two years getting to work side by side with Earvin are some of the greatest memories I have,” Pelinka said.
“It’s saddening and disheartening to believe things are a misperception.”
With the Lakers looking to move forward in a crucial offseason, Pelinka is hoping he can meet with Johnson to discuss these comments.
“I look forward to the opportunity to sit down and talk to him, work through them because they’re simply not true,” Pelinka stated.
Over the past month, the Lakers have stayed extremely quiet after Johnson’s resignation. With multiple reports about Pelinka and senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis’ emerging roles during the team’s head coaching search, there were immediate concerns about the direction of the team.
With owner Jeanie Buss deciding not to hire a new president of basketball operations, Pelinka will report directly to ownership moving forward. In addition, Rambis will remain in his current role.
While there are still more questions than answers after Vogel’s press conference, Pelinka and the Lakers will shift their focus to the 2019 NBA Draft and free agency. Highlighted by moving up seven spots and landing the No. 4 pick, the Lakers have even more options to add to their young core or trade for a second All-Star player alongside LeBron James.
Even though Pelinka and Vogel expressed optimism about the team’s future, the reality is they need to stabilize themselves, which will take time. As Johnson’s comments certainly do not help, it will be interesting to see how it impacts the Lakers in preparation for the 2019-20 season.
Although the past month has not been ideal, the Lakers making good decisions and winning games can quickly change opinions.