When Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson suddenly stepped down, many immediately began speculating about who would take his place.
Names like Golden State Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers and Miami Heat president Pat Riley were rumored about as general manager Rob Pelinka took control of basketball operations in the meantime.
That meantime has turned out to be the foreseeable future as Pelinka has played a major role so far for the Lakers, taking control of the team’s head coaching search that ultimately ended with former Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel being hired. It has even come out the Lakers have no plans on hiring anyone above Pelinka, even though his title hasn’t changed.
As it currently stands, Pelinka remains the highest ranking basketball official within the team and works closely with owner Jeanie Buss, special projects executive director Linda Rambis, and senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis on all basketball decisions, according to Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:
Pelinka has remained in his GM role since Johnson’s departure and is the Lakers’ highest-ranking basketball official. With Johnson gone, Pelinka reports to Buss while communicating with Linda and Kurt Rambis. Sources around the league said those four operate as a group on basketball decisions.
This has been a quick rise for Pelinka who had no front office experience before becoming general manager during the 2016-17 season. Pelinka was the long-time agent and best friend of Kobe Bryant so he has been around the organization for a long time and has gained the trust of Buss and Rambis:
League sources said Buss and Linda Rambis trust Pelinka, who has been around the organization since his days as an agent representing Bryant, his longtime client and best friend.
It has become clear that Pelinka is a huge voice within the Lakers organization and that could be the right decision to make. Whether or not it is will be determined by what happens over the next couple of months as the Lakers prepare for the 2019 NBA Draft and free agency.
The Lakers have been great within the draft over the last few seasons, but landing a second All-Star player to pair with LeBron James is of the utmost importance. If they can build the Lakers back into a championship contender, no one will question Pelinka’s place and voice within the organization. However, anything short of that will lead to a lot of angst among those on the outside looking in.