Magic -- Lakers GM Pelinka was 'backstabbing'

Tanya Simon
May 20, 2019

Being in this business 40 years, I have allies, I've got friends everywhere.

Johnson said he had no problem trying to help Joey Buss, co-owner/team president of the South Bay Lakers, and Jesse Buss, co-owner/director scouting and assistant GM, to eventually move up in the front office. "So when all this was coming back to me and guys calling me saying, 'you better watch out for him". Johnson noted that Pelinka was emphasizing how he was not present, nor working hard enough at his position.

Basketball legend Magic Johnson called out Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka on Monday, saying the organization's handling of coach Luke Walton was the last straw in his stunning decision to step down as the team's president of basketball operations. But then the whispering campaign started.

With turmoil - and losses - mounting this season, Johnson said he reached a point where he felt the Lakers needed to go in a different direction, leading to a situation with then-coach Luke Walton that Johnson described as "the straw that broke the camel's back" in his tenure. "We had three meetings [and] I showed [Lakers owner Jeanie Buss] the things he did well and the things he didn't do well".

He added: "So I start getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things now were said to them outside of basketball". And I said, 'Listen, we've got to get a better coach. I like him. He's great.

Pelinka, 49, was an agent for many years - representing Kobe Bryant, among others - before the Lakers hired him in February 2017.

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"So the first day, 'Well, let's think about it'". Then the next day, no, we should try to work it out.

"When we went back and forth like that". Luke's a great guy, great guy. "I said, when I looked up, I only really answer to Jeanie Buss", Johnson continued. Now, I've got Tim involved. I said I didn't mind doing that.

"What was insane was, when I took the job, you know how many agents called me, and said, 'You got to watch out for (Pelinka)?'" Johnson said. "I said, 'Do I have the power to make decisions?' Because that was important to take the job as well".

"I told them 'when it's not fun for me, when I think that I don't have the decision-making power I thought I had, I have to step aside'".

When asked if anyone else backstabbed him, Johnson said it was just Pelinka. What happened was I wasn't having fun coming to work anymore - especially when I've got to work beside you knowing you want my position. And I'm okay with that.

Johnson said he had told Buss that he would take the job for only three years before turning it over to Pelinka. "But there's a way to get that, and it's not talking about the person that's above you".

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