Before the Los Angeles Lakers introduced head coach Frank Vogel, former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson made an appearance on ESPN’s First Take.
For more than a month, Johnson and the Lakers stayed relatively quiet since his surprising resignation prior to the team’s final game of the 2018-19 NBA season.
However, during the team’s head coaching search, owner Jeanie Buss shared a photo of the two having dinner. Despite Johnson not informing Buss of his decision first, they stayed in contact and Johnson recommended former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue to replace former head coach Luke Walton.
While there were conflicting reports about why Johnson resigned, he finally clarified who was ‘backstabbing’ and ‘whispering’ behind his back, via ESPN’s First Take:
“I start hearing, ‘Magic, you not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office.’ So, people around the Lakers office was telling me Rob was saying things and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back that I wasn’t in the office enough and so on and on. So, I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things now were said to them outside of basketball. Now, not just in the Lakers office anymore, now it’s in the media and so on.”
Despite Buss asking Johnson numerous times about what went wrong, he said nothing about Pelinka or anyone else, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
Buss had questioned Johnson several times in the wake of his public resignation, asking him if there were any issues with Pelinka or anyone else in the organization. They spoke on the phone for hours. They went to a private dinner at Wally’s in Beverly Hills on May 2. Multiple Lakers sources told ESPN that each time, Johnson said nothing beyond what he’d said on April 9 — that he didn’t feel like he could be Magic in this role and wanted his freedom back.
As the Lakers were trying to move forward, Vogel’s introductory press conference was viewed as a fresh start in a way. However, Johnson’s latest comments only created more questions about how Buss and the Lakers truly operate.
While there was a lot of speculation, Johnson confirmed reports about them having too many voices when it comes to basketball decisions. From Pelinka to senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis to special projects executive director Linda Rambis, it can create a lot of indecisions.
For Johnson, the last straw was when he wanted to fire Walton. From Buss changing her mind three different times and including chief operating officer Tim Harris in meetings, Johnson felt he only needed to answer to her and felt it was time to move on.