Nobody knows for certain who is running the Los Angeles…

Nobody knows for certain who is running the Los Angeles Lakers right now. Rob Pelinka seems to be entrenched as the general manager of the team, but there is still a stubborn faction of reporters convinced that a new president of basketball operations is coming before the offseason begins in earnest. Jeanie Buss is the team’s owner, but according to Amin Elhassan on ESPN (via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports), Linda Rambis is the one that’s actually pulling the strings. “Some agents and GMs around the league have dubbed her the shadow owner of the Lakers, that everything goes through Linda Rambis, and if you want to convince Jeanie of something, you’ve got to get Linda first.” Ramona Shelburne later confirmed this as the status quo in Lakerland.

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And now, with less than three months remaining before free agency formally begins and with the Anthony Davis trade talks with New Orleans expected to re-start as well, this question remains: Is Pelinka capable of steering the Lakers out of this abyss — hiring the right coach to replace the departed Luke Walton, closing a deal or two along the way — and fulfilling their title-contending dreams? It depends on whom you ask, but the vast majority of agents and executives polled by The Athletic have serious doubts. Pelinka has no shortage of detractors around the league, with the issues raised ranging from his trustworthiness to his communication style and relatability. The question of trust has dogged Pelinka since 2004, when his then-client Carlos Boozer reneged on a verbal commitment to re-sign with Cleveland and took a more lucrative offer with Utah.
But there are also respected power brokers who say they’ve had functional and positive experiences dealing with Pelinka, and who believe that his background as a player (he went to two Finals Fours with those Fab Five Michigan teams), attorney and prominent agent who built and ran his own agency is a fit for the Lakers. What’s more, Pelinka was widely known to be handling the lion’s share of the daily duties before Johnson’s departure. He was, in essence, running the front office already.
Yet while rumblings remain that Buss might replace Johnson with an elite front office executive at some point, and with so much pressure from local and national media to conduct a comprehensive search for a new president of basketball operations who isn’t required to have deep Lakers ties, a source with knowledge of her plan insists that this front office is Pelinka’s to run. At least for now.
According to sources, the Lakers never reached out to LeBron’s former general manager in Cleveland, David Griffin, before he agreed to join New Orleans. Sources also say that they haven’t reached out to the Warriors regarding general manager Bob Myers. Ditto for Jerry West, the Clippers consultant who told The Athletic recently that he wasn’t sure what his future held past this summer but who now appears likely to remain in his current role going forward. (Ideas had circulated about West possibly heading for the Lakers alongside a younger, high-level GM.)
The Lakers remain holed up with no team official having appeared in public since Magic Johnson resigned April 9. Jeanie Buss is reportedly going forward with Rob Pelinka but has yet to confirm that, or let him appear to reassure fans... and free agents... that they’re still the Lakers, proceeding on the same agenda. As little as Pelinka’s controversy-filled career as an agent prepared him for this, he’s a bright guy who can handle himself in public. Jeanie won’t even trust him with that.
Criticized for not looking outside the organization, Jeanie’s answer is More Family. A veritable delegation of Busses went to Philadelphia last week to interview 76er assistant coach Monty Williams: Jeanie, Jesse Buss, Joey Buss, plus Pelinka, Linda and Kurt Rambis and Tim Harris, yet another Laker executive who hasn’t participated in basketball ops until now. Ominously for the Lakers, July 1 is looming with free agents gathering final impressions of who’s dynamic and who’s defunct.
Yet while rumblings remain that Buss might replace Johnson with an elite front office executive at some point, and with so much pressure from local and national media to conduct a comprehensive search for a new president of basketball operations who isn’t required to have deep Lakers ties, a source with knowledge of Jeanie’s plan insists that this front office is Pelinka’s to run. At least for now.
According to sources, the Lakers never reached out to LeBron’s former general manager in Cleveland, Dave Griffin, before he agreed to join New Orleans. Sources also say that they haven’t reached out to the Warriors regarding general manager Bob Myers. Ditto for Jerry West, the Clippers consultant who told The Athletic recently that he wasn’t sure what his future held past this summer but now appears likely to remain in his current role going forward (ideas had circulated about West possibly heading for the Lakers alongside a younger, high-level GM). Pat Riley’s name has been discussed in media circles as well – and his ties to LeBron from their Miami days as well as the Lakers organization would certainly qualify as a unique and high-level fit – but the Heat president made it clear in his postseason press conference that he has no interest.
The real reasons for Magic’s departure remain somewhat murky, but a source with knowledge of the situation adamantly denied the report indicating that Jeanie had mistakenly shared e-mails with Johnson that were critical of his job performance. Johnson did his best to break it all down during that surreal press conference in which he announced that he was done, but the truth is that it simply doesn’t matter anymore.
On April 9, Magic Johnson resigned as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, telling reporters before telling Jeanie Buss or any other member of the organization. Buss has no plans to hire someone to replace Johnson, who is still expected to be part of the Lakers’ free-agent recruiting this summer in some capacity.
Empowered by Buss to run the coaching search, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka met with Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams this week, with plans to interview both again next week. While those second interviews have not been officially scheduled yet, they are expected to include Buss.
The first week of the search followed a chaotic week for the franchise. On April 9, Magic Johnson resigned as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, telling reporters before telling Buss or any other member of the organization. Buss has no plans to hire someone to replace Johnson, who is still expected to be part of the Lakers’ free-agent recruiting this summer in some capacity.
Okay, so that’s probably not what actually happened, but lending credence to the theory is Johnson’s latest interview/ambushing with TMZ, in which he continued to explain his decision to leave, while also confirming that he isn’t totally stepping away: “No. The same,” Johnson said when asked if he would’ve done things any differently if he had them to do over again. “Everybody knows I love the Lakers, and so I’m gonna always help them. Like right now, I’m gonna still help them. I love my team, I love my franchise, and I love this city. “You have to do things sometimes on your own terms. It doesn’t matter what other people think, see? And I’m that guy. But I’m still helping them. It’s almost like I never left (laughs). I’m still talking to them every day,” Johnson continued. “I’m gonna help them get the Lakers back right, you can believe that.”
If no one knows what’s going on, it’s likely that Jeanie Buss has reached out to Bryant. A source says Kobe’s importance to Jeanie explains why Pelinka, whom Magic gored, remains in place with enhanced powers and no thought of replacing him…. As for any hope Bryant will ride to the rescue, he’s not one to agonize about decisions. If he had any interest in taking over, we would have heard about it by now.

http://twitter.com/ESPNLosAngeles/status/1116847053060100096
While there's no love lost for the Lakers' front office, Buss carries a fair amount of goodwill around the league. Unlike some of her big-market brethren and sistren, Buss has recognized the plight of the small-market franchise as central to the core mission of the NBA. Her noblesse oblige has conveyed that what's good for the NBA is good for the Lakers, and it's a sentiment that hasn't been lost on fellow owners and executives.
Magic Johnson: .@JeanieBuss it was an honor and pleasure working side by side with you every single day coming up with strategy on how we could make the @Lakers better on the court and in the community. It was a dream of your father and my mentor and father figure, Dr. Jerry Buss, for us to work together and it finally came to fruition. I know how bad you want to win a championship for all @Lakers fans @JeanieBuss and under your leadership that will happen soon. I will always love you and will always be your brother from another mother. Laker for life! ❤️
“Honestly, they need to hire an experienced general manager with credibility and let him fire Rob,” the agent said. “Let that president that come in, let him have the authority to hire his staff and to hire their head coach if he doesn’t want Luke Walton.”
Magic Johnson has ZERO regrets after leaving the Lakers -- in fact, he's super happy about his decision ... so says his wife Cookie Johnson. Just 24 hours after Magic shockingly stepped down as the team's President of Basketball Operations, Cookie and E.J. Johnson hit up Mr. Chow on Wednesday -- where they looked pretty relieved. "Just know that [Magic Johnson] is happy and we're happy for him," Cookie told us on the way out of the restaurant ... "No regrets."
If there is one team that could make Myers consider leaving the Warriors dynasty, it would be the Lakers. He’s of Danville origins, but Myers is definitely Los Angeles verified. He went to UCLA, where he played basketball and helped with the school’s long search for a new men’s basketball coach, which ended with Mick Cronin’s introduction on Tuesday with Myers in attendance. He got his law degree in Los Angeles while working his way up the ranks of Los Angeles-based Wasserman Media Group. He has a good relationship with Kobe Bryant, the Mr. Laker of this era, whom Myers worked with during his agent days.
But why would Myers want to go to the Lakers? Well, for starters, money. According to Sam Amick, national NBA writer for The Athletic — as he discussed on the new “Tampering” podcast — Magic was making $10 million a year with the Lakers. No, Myers does not make that much with the Warriors. Maybe about half that. Myers definitely makes less than Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who recently signed a contract extension at a number the Warriors have been diligent about keeping close to the vest.
Brian Windhorst: “I think Jeanie was aware that Magic might resign. I don’t think it came out of the clear blue sky. I don’t know if she knew he was going to have a press conference before the game but they definitely, from what I’ve told, after that [three-hour] meeting that they had I think it was yesterday, knew this was an option or this was something that could happen.”
Tania Ganguli: Kuzma is asked about Magic's assertion players need to grow up/media babies them. He begins: "I mean for me I will never say nothing bad about Magic. He’s theguy that gave me an opportunity to come in this league and play for this great organization." Adds that Johnson is right.
Magic Johnson: Thank you to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, General Manager Rob Pelinka, Coach Luke Walton, the Lakers players & the entire basketball operations staff for the tremendous opportunity to serve as the President of Basketball Operations for the @Lakers. I will always be a Laker for life.
Chris Grenham: Danny Ainge tells @Toucherandrich that he hasn’t reached out to Magic Johnson and he probably won’t. Said they don’t have that kind of relationship but he has a great deal of respect for Magic.
He didn’t have the professionalism to tell LeBron, a source close to James confirmed, forcing one of the greatest players of all time to learn about Johnson’s decision through the media. Never mind, as the source also confirmed, that LeBron had met with Johnson, Pelinka, and his agent, Rich Paul, on Saturday to discuss the future of the franchise without even a hint that this was coming. Three days later, Johnson was engaging in a 40-minute public therapy session with reporters that only sparked more questions about what he had done.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently gave Magic Johnson permission to fire coach Luke Walton at the conclusion of this season after being informed of Walton’s unwillingness to “bulk up" his coaching staff, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Johnson, who held an impromptu news conference outside the Lakers’ locker room Tuesday to announce his resignation as president before the team’s final game of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers, had been displeased with Walton’s ability to effectively make in-game adjustments and he felt the coaching staff lacked the experience and expertise to foster player development, sources said.
Johnson wanted to replace Walton during the season, but Buss was reluctant to venture down that road until now, sources said. The 59-year-old business mogul told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday he had the power to do what he saw fit for the franchise and said what would have transpired after exit interviews on Wednesday had nothing to do with why he made the shocking decision to resign.
Ryan Ward: Magic Johnson on stint as Lakers president: "I'm happy with what we did in 2 years. I'm not disappointed on anything I did, any trade I made. None of that.."
Ryan Ward: Magic Johnson on if Anthony Davis situation played into resignation: "No. That had nothing to do with it. We want to improve the team. That's what my job is to do, and then you guys made it like, 'Oh, the young guys..."
Adrian Wojnarowski: Luke Walton has two years left on his contract, but only next season is guaranteed, per source. Lakers hold option on 2020-21 season. Johnson planned to fire him, but stumbled into his own resignation on the way. Somehow, Walton survived Magic Johnson. He didn't see that coming.
Mark Medina: Steve Kerr respectfully declined to comment on Magic Johnson stepping down as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations.
Mark Medina: In light of Magic Johnson stepping down as the Lakers' president of basketball operations, Draymond Green asked if anything in the NBA shocks him: "Not at all. Nothing."
Mike Bresnahan: Magic said he really enjoyed recruiting LeBron, specifically that part of the job as president of basketball operations. He maintained that the Lakers “were not that far” from other teams talent-wise. Cited injuries as the reason for the season’s downturn.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson did not endorse anyone to fill his position but said Jeanie Buss will undoubtedly field dozens of phone calls from interested parties.
Kevin Ding: Magic on stepping down as Lakers president to return to his old life: “I’ll still help the Lakers in any way I can.”
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson says the decision was not over Luke Walton’s job status. He says making this announcement, which, Jeanie Buss isn’t aware of yet, is a “monkey off my back.”
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson said he will return to community work and reaching out to players around the league to help in their development: “I’m a free bird and I can’t be handcuffed ... This is a good day.”
Tania Ganguli: “I was happier when I wasn’t the president,” Johnson says. He says his relationship with Jeanie will be better when he’s not in this position. Calls this a monkey off his back.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Lakers coaching staff fully expected to be fired in hours after the final game of the season. They had believed they were gone for months. Now? Magic quits in public, saying he's too scared to tell Jeanie Buss face-to-face. What an embarrassing episode for a historic franchise.
Dave McMenamin: Magic Johnson says that his position doesn’t allow him to be a statesman of the game of basketball. He says he wants to go back to his wonderful life away from this position. “I was happier when I wasn’t the president (of the Lakers)”
Tania Ganguli: Magic Johnson steps down as Lakers president. He hasn’t said it outright but is hinting strongly that he planned to fire Luke Walton and that won’t happen now. He is getting emotional and hasn’t told Jeanie yet he says.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Since taking over as president of the Lakers, Magic Johnson never fully committed to the job. Often he was traveling and away from the team. His office hours were limited. He didn't do a lot of scouting. Running an NBA team takes a tremendous commitment of time and energy.
When Kuzma went to Charlotte for All-Star Weekend to participate in the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge, he sought an audience with Pelinka. Kuzma and his people came away from their chat feeling reassured, a source close to the situation told The Athletic. Pelinka told the second-year forward that he was key to the Lakers’ future and that, unless it was a trade for one of the game’s three best players, he wasn’t trading him. A year earlier, Larry Nance Jr. approached Pelinka with a similar question. Nance Jr. and his fiancée, his college girlfriend, were interested in buying a house. He wanted to get a sense of whether the Lakers planned on keeping him around, and Pelinka told him that the Lakers would only trade him if it meant landing one of the game’s three best players. He told him to buy the house, multiple sources confirmed.
One version of events that circulated within the Lakers’ walls — and does not bode well for Walton’s future — suggested that it was the coach’s desire to play James off the ball more that inspired the team’s emphasis on playmakers. A source with knowledge of Walton’s thinking vehemently refuted the assertion, indicating that the sequence of events has been unfairly flip-flopped: Walton was given all these players who weren’t strong shooters but could handle the ball, and thus had no other choice but to find a way to play LeBron off the ball more. Other sources said the coaching staff was not consulted about potential targets in free agency, and that Walton was only looped in very late in the process.
At one point, some in Walton’s circles feared Paul was trying to use the Davis situation to leverage a coaching change, with the premise being that his arrival would require a higher-caliber coach. But the Lakers received backchannel information that Davis liked Walton and that relieved pressure on the third-year head coach.
Once the trade deadline was over and Davis remained in New Orleans, the trust issues that sprung up as a result of the very public talks remained. Johnson joined the team two days after the Feb. 7 deadline in Philadelphia, but his message, delivered 30 minutes before tipoff, seemed to be poorly received. Sources described players rolling their eyes at Johnson. They had gone days without hearing from the front office and the message from management now was, essentially, that they needed to toughen up. The Lakers lost in Philly that night, and again in Atlanta against the lowly Hawks.
This season, Pelinka, the general manager, took a proactive role in sitting in on coaches’ meetings and even requested the Lakers change the way their scouting reports were packaged for players, according to multiple sources. While a GM collaborating with a coaching staff on how to present information may not be without precedent, this was seen by those on the ground as another example of Pelinka unnecessarily meddling in low-level affairs.
Foremost in the bumbling was the Lakers front office, which was behind the curve in wisdom, poise, awareness and, shockingly, effort. Magic Johnson isn’t actually a full-timer in the usual NBA sense. He’s rarely in the Laker office, big-footing the process like Michael Jordan in Charlotte. Not that there aren’t other head guys with light schedules but they have No. 2 guys who take up the slack. Johnson’s GM Rob Pelinka is a bright guy but like Magic, isn’t a regular on the scouting trail, or wasn’t until they realized they were looking at a lottery pick instead of the playoffs.
The phone call still bothers Andrew Bogut nearly 15 months later. Then, Bogut learned the Los Angeles Lakers would cut him four days before his contract would become guaranteed. Normally such an incident would be chalked up to the business of professional sports. To Bogut, the Lakers breached an unwritten agreement he said he had reached with their front office so long as he remained healthy. “The Lakers told me I’d be there the whole year,” Bogut said. “They went against their word and waived me at the deadline. Whatever. That was their decision.”
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