The Lakers’ coach expressed sympathy over Lakers president Jeanie Buss firing former general manager Mitch Kupchak and demoting her brother, former vice president of player personnel Jim Buss. He spoke to both men on the phone after their ousters, listening as they offered encouraging words about his bright future with the franchise and ability to work with the young roster. “I am very close with Jimmy and Mitch,” said Walton, mindful they hired him last summer. “I really enjoyed working with them.”
The Lakers technically have until Thursday’s trade deadline to make any more moves to their roster. But hours after Lakers president Jeanie Buss named him the president of basketball operations, Johnson called the Lakers’ young core “untouchable.” “That’s good to hear, honestly,” second-year guard D’Angelo Russell said. “With everybody getting traded and everything happening, you’re walking around looking over your shoulder because you don’t have a clue what’s going on. Some things you can’t control. So that’s good to hear.”
Walton said he had no involvement with the Lakers hiring Pelinka, which can’t become official until he completes the divestiture process with his business. Walton sounded fine with the idea after meeting Pelinka casually through players he has represented, including former Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, Golden State forward Andre Iguodala and Cleveland forward Channing Frye.
As word got out that new Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson quickly hired a general manager that doesn’t look like the former NBA superstar, there was a collective groan from qualified and aspiring NBA general managers who do. “It’s always done in private and way in advance,” one high-ranking black NBA team executive said. “We got no shot once the news breaks.” Another high-ranking black NBA team executive said: “I was surprised.”
Pelinka represents former Lakers star Kobe Bryant, a future Hall of Famer and the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Even in early retirement, Bryant still has major influence on the Lakers. “Los Angeles has always been about hype,” one high-ranking black NBA team executive said. “Kobe obviously had influence in getting Pelinka pushed through the door.” “I heard that this was coming,” another high-ranking black NBA team executive said. “He has a real connection with Kobe.”
Of the eight high-ranking African-American NBA team executives The Undefeated spoke to, none expressed any malicious intent toward Johnson or Pelinka. But they all said they would have at least appreciated an opportunity to interview for the job. All are more than qualified for the position. But many black assistant general managers and other high-level team executives said they have had a hard time getting consideration for any NBA general manager opening. “We just want to compete. Guys with practical basketball experience, that’s what it’s about. Don’t give me anything. We just want to compete,” one high-ranking black NBA team executive said.
“Those opportunities are few and far in-between,” said Newton. “It’s very rare for a final decision-maker to feel comfortable that a person not like them is capable of running their team.” One NBA owner was offended by Newton’s comments and believed such talk wouldn’t help him get back into the league, a source said. “Nothing surprises me in this business,” one high-ranking black NBA team executive said. “Analytic guys getting jobs. Coaches being named executives. Now it’s the agents’ turn. Everyone except the people who have the practical basketball experience are getting shots.”
Baxter Holmes: Statement from ex-Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, who was fired from his post Tuesday: "I would like to thank the Buss family for 36 incredible years. In particular, I would like to acknowledge Dr. Buss who brought me here as a player in 1981. I also want to thank every Laker player, coach and staff member with whom I have worked and who supported me through the good times and the very few not so good times. I am most disappointed that I won't have the opportunity to continue to work with Luke [Walton] and watch this young and talented team grow and eventually win in the Laker tradition. Finally, my best wishes to Earvin Johnson and the Laker organization going forward."
The Kupchak extension during that same month was a major point of contention. He had a year remaining on his contract, but Jim had convinced Jeanie that star players might look elsewhere if they sensed instability in the Lakers’ front office. Their father, the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss, had always preferred to wait until a contract's end in matters such as these. Still, with Jim pushing, she gave in.
Jeanie’s determination to make the Lakers a superstar destination again is at the heart of this issue. That’s why Magic is running point again, promising to recruit top-tier talent the way Kupchak and Buss couldn’t. That’s why this past weekend was Jeanie’s worst nightmare, an All-Star game in New Orleans taking place without any Lakers players for the first time since 1996 (the pressure rises still considering the 2018 All-Star festivities are in Los Angeles).
The retention of Ryan West is significant, too, as the Lakers director of player personnel and son of Lakers legend Jerry West was seen as an underutilized member of their front office team and will likely have much more influence in the future.
Ramona Shelburne: There's been questions around the league of who to call with the Lakers in advance of Thursday's trade deadline. It's unequivocally Magic. Magic is the person who made the trade with Houston for Lou Williams. He's the person working the phones.
After sweeping changes to install Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations, the Los Angeles Lakers have hired prominent player agent Rob Pelinka as general manager, league sources told The Vertical. Pelinka was the longtime agent for Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who was a strong advocate of the hiring of Johnson to owner Jeanie Buss, league sources said.
Pelinka will be the day-to-day executive running the organization, engineering trades, and coordinating scouting and the draft. He’ll answer directly to Johnson. Pelinka has played a part in helping teams engineer numerous trades in his role as an agent. In his role recruiting as an agent, Pelinka has been immersed in evaluating the deep 2017 NBA draft class.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Lakers are finalizing a multi-year agreement with agent Rob Pelinka as general manager, league sources tell @The Vertical. He'll start soon.
Calvin Watkins: Rockets guard Eric Gordon said his agent, Rob Pelinka, will become the GM of the Lakers. "I think he's going to be good," Gordon said. "He had a good reputation as an agent and definitely expect nothing but good things from him. It's a different challenge and I think he'll be just fine." Pelinka not only represents Gordon but Trevor Ariza and James Harden.
Jonathan Feigen: Rockets guard Eric Gordon spoke of his agent, Rob Pelinka, becoming Lakers GM as a done deal. "It happened fast."
Arash Markazi: Magic would not comment on reports that Rob Pelinka will be the next Lakers GM. He says he won't be making any moves public right now.
After sweeping front-office changes to hire Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, the franchise is strongly considering agent Rob Pelinka to become general manager, league sources told The Vertical.
Pelinka has been one of the NBA’s top player agents and has strong ties to the franchise through his relationship with longtime client Kobe Bryant and owner Jeanie Buss. Pelinka is at the top of a short list of candidates to become the top day-to-day executive, sources said.
Before the Lakers fired Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss on Tuesday, the franchise had already moved away from trying to pursue the Golden State Warriors’ Bob Myers, the franchise’s original top target for general manager, league sources told The Vertical. After Myers signed a recent contract extension, it became clear to Lakers brass that it would be unable to lure Myers, league sources said.
Within the Lakers’ new top circle of power, another sitting general manager who has been a significant source of intrigue for the freshly vacant L.A. general manager job: Portland’s Neil Olshey, league sources said. Olshey is a two-time runner-up for NBA Executive of the Year, including 2016 with the Blazers and 2011 as Clippers general manager after beating out the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul.
Ramona Shelburne: It's not clear yet whether Walton will be consulted on who is hired to replace Jim & Mitch. Obviously very difficult spot for Walton, who was hired by Kupchak and Jim Buss.
Mark Medina: Jeanie Buss on @SpectrumSN: "It was probably so hard for me to make that I probably waited too long. For that, I apologize to Lakers fans."
Arash Markazi: Jeanie Buss: "The status quo wasn't acceptable... It wasn't Lakers basketball. It wasn't what this organization stands for. "
Bob Garcia: Magic Johnson: "It really wasn't about the last couple of weeks. It's about the last couple of years." Via @SpectrumSN #Lakers
Lakers Nation: Magic on rebuilding the Lakers: "It’s not a quick fix. I’m not a quick fix. I can’t turn it around tomorrow” (@SpectrumSN)
Bob Garcia: Magic Johnson: "It was time for me to put my private businesses aside and focus on Lakers business." (Via @SpectrumSN) #Lakers
Serena Winters: Magic on Jeanie: “She’s my boss, but my sister at the same time. So, we already know each other & we’re both driven to win” (on @SpectrumSN)
Mike Trudell: More from Magic on new GM: “Understands the CBA, salary cap and the new NBA … also have relationships already w/teams, players and agents."
Sam Amick: Going after DeMarcus Cousins was Jim & Mitch's last-ditch attempt to save their jobs, I'm told. Jim really wanted him, Mitch handled talks
Kevin Ding: Jerry West will not be part of the Lakers' revamped management structure, according to league sources.
Mark Medina: Reached Mitch Kupchak, who respectfully declined comment on no longer being Lakers' GM. He might address it once dust settles, but not now
Sam Amick: Two more names to watch in Lakers situation, in addition to Rob Pelinka & Arn Tellem: Portland's Neil Olshey & former Cavs GM Chris Grant
Kevin Ding: Nothing concrete, but I'm hearing strong indications Rob Pelinka, Kobe's longtime agent, will be the Lakers' next general manager.
Sam Amick: Also, Magic wants Kobe Bryant to come back on board with some sort of player relations role. He recently intimated as much publicly.
Ramona Shelburne: As for Kobe's role? I'm told he's happy doing what he's doing. But obviously will be available to the Lakers whenever they need him
Ramona Shelburne: One intriguing name to watch with Lakers front office jobs now open is sports agent Rob Pelinka, per league sources
Marc Stein: In addition to Rob Pelinka -- agent for James Harden and Kobe Bryant -- longtime agent Arn Tellem is also said to be on the Lakers' radar.
Los Angeles Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss announced today that the team has named Earvin "Magic" Johnson as President of Basketball Operations. In addition, General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately. Furthermore, Jim Buss will no longer hold his role as Lakers Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.
"Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect," Jeanie Buss said. "Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness." "It's a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family," said Earvin "Magic" Johnson. "Since 1979, I've been a part of the Laker Nation and I'm passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions."
In addition to the changes made within the basketball department, the Lakers also announced they have parted ways with John Black who had been the Lakers Vice President of Public Relations. Chief Operating Officer Tim Harris will immediately begin a search for a replacement. Jeanie Buss added, "We thank John for his many years of service."
League sources were skeptical that Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss could truly trigger deals on their own and that Johnson would play a role in whatever the team does at the deadline, but sources said they expected Lakers would hold firm unless it were a “no-brainer” deal aimed at the future.
Jeanie Buss took all these things into consideration when she made the decision to bring Magic Johnson back into the fold, and Magic has put some thought into the process he would take to make the Lakers great again. Here’s what he had to say to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith Wednesday morning. First of all, we have to develop our own players. That’s number one. Number two: We’re going to have to draft well. And number three: You just made the point, you know, we’re all — not just the Lakers — but every team is looking for that franchise-changing player.
Tania Ganguli: Stephen A Smith asked Magic if he'll push to be the 1 voice of the Lakers when talking to Jim & Jeanie. "I will put that on the table, yes."
Tania Ganguli: Magic Johnson said on First Take he wants to be the Lakers Pres. of Basketball Ops. Jim Buss is currently the Lakers EVP of basketball ops. pic.twitter.com/HvC3n32RD5
Tania Ganguli: More from Magic Johnson on First Take: "I can’t step in between Jim and Jeanie. That’s their thing. Jeanie’s gotta handle that."
June 25, 2022 | 7:06 pm EDT Update
“Their continuity wasn’t there,” Perkins said on a recent appearance on JJ Redick’s The Old Man & the Three podcast (h/t Lee Tran of Fadeaway World) about Westbrook and Durant. “No matter how much they tried to fake it to the public, their brotherhood, it never was a brotherhood. And that’s okay, right, because you don’t have to be somebody’s brother to go out there and win a championship. But it helps. They never just got on the same page.
“It was the most difficult situation that I’ve ever been in coming from a Celtics team that was so close. When I got to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was so separated. You had Eric Maynor, Russell Westbrook and James Harden… and Daequan Cook. They had their little clique and they kicked it with each other. Then you had KD who as just by himself. He didn’t even hang with them.”
“I gave him a choice because he had a 20-minute restriction the first game,” Steve Kerr told Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner on Friday’s episode of the Point Forward podcast. “I told him this is how the minutes would play out for you if you started verses if you came off the bench. Typical Steph, he said, ‘No, it sounds way better to come off the bench. That way I don’t have to sit too long between my minutes.’ “It never even entered the equation that this would be a blow to his ego or anything.”
“Physically get right, mentally take a step back, reflect, and kind of decompress,” Udoka said about Tatum. “Get your mind right as well. Just that time away. Don’t want to bother guys as much right now, but we want to relay the message that there’s still more to build on and grow on in certain areas.”
The Spurs had Branham pegged as a “midteens pick, maybe late lottery,” said Wright, who added that the club was prepared to trade up to get him. “We were just fortunate he was there at 20,” Wright said.
June 25, 2022 | 5:45 pm EDT Update
Joe Mussatto: Sam Presti on Lu Dort’s team option: “Obviously it’s our plan to exercise that pending anything different.” Significant news. The Thunder could have declined the option to make Dort a restricted free agent.