If there is one word to describe the state of the Los Angeles Lakers after the unexpected departure of Magic Johnson, it is uncertainty.
But as the fog clears and the future becomes slightly more clear, new details are like gold for fans who want a better picture of what the organization will look like moving forward.
Outside of coach Luke Walton, whose job status remains in limbo and on an absolute roller coaster ride, Los Angeles general manager Rob Pelinka holds a similar deck of cards. But according to one recent report, the agent-turned-executive is expected to remain at his post (via ESPN):
“LeBron James was stunned to learn of Magic Johnson’s decision to step down as the Los Angeles Lakers’ president of basketball operations, a source with knowledge of James’ thinking told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne on Wednesday. But despite Johnson’s abrupt resignation, James stands behind Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and the organization, the source told Shelburne. The team is still assessing Johnson’s decision, but general manager Rob Pelinka will stay in his job, and, if anything, his power will grow, sources told Shelburne.”
Franchise owner Jeanie Buss has remained loyal to Walton through the tumultuous season and Pelinka has maintained a longstanding relationship with the organization, representing Kobe Bryant at Landmark Sports in his time as an agent.
Buss, who has maintained interest in running the team like a family-owned business, likely does not want to face a total rebuild of the front office when she already has people in place that she trusts. That is one reason why people like Johnson, Pelinka and Walton were originally hired for their positions.
Shelburne also said Pelinka will step into the “leadership vacuum” role. While it is unlikely that Pelinka takes over as the President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers, his job security as general manager will be put under a microscope now that he will have control to make decisions without the oversight from Johnson.
If the team decides to move on from Walton but retain Pelinka, many would obviously expect the general manager to have a huge say in the coaching hire. One candidate that immediately comes to mind, then, is Miami Heat assistant Juwan Howard.
Already considered a frontrunner for the position, Howard has an established relationship with franchise cornerstone LeBron James as former teammates on the Heat. But the former NBA big man also played college basketball for Michigan alongside Pelinka from 1991 until 1993.
Howard seems like the perfect marriage between appeasing both Pelinka and James if Walton is no longer in the mix for next season.