Storyline: Lakers Front Office

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Buss remains supportive not just of Walton, a source said, but also of the power structure of Johnson, Pelinka and Walton. Walton has been in his job for two-plus seasons, outlasting the Lakers’ three previous coaches. After last summer’s overhaul, however, he is really eight games into a new gig. Yes, his lineups have been scattershot, and he has utilized several that he will likely never go back to. But isn’t that the natural process when the front office gave him a roster that was haphazardly assembled and two key players punched their way to the sideline?

Yet according to a source with knowledge of Johnson’ thinking, his frustration wasn’t rooted in the early Lakers results as much as it was the lack of perceived identity on both ends of the floor. As he sees it, there hasn’t been nearly enough progress when it comes to establishing a system (the Lakers are eighth in offensive rating and 21st in defensive rating thus far). That’s the key word to be remembered here – system – and it’s perfectly ambiguous in the kind of way that might keep Walton up at night as this season wears on.

1 month ago via ESPN

Despite Johnson’s prior proclamations of needing to allow time for Walton to develop a young roster surrounding four-time MVP LeBron James, evidence is mounting that Walton’s job security ultimately depends upon his ability to significantly improve upon a 3-5 to start the season. Johnson’s aggressive meeting tone circulated to individuals throughout the organization, including to principal owner Jeanie Buss, league sources said. Throughout his tenure with the Lakers, Johnson has earned an internal reputation for an often-time volatile management style, including with his handling of Walton and the coaching staff, sources said.

2 months ago via ESPN

Rondo, meanwhile, says the Lakers have been perhaps the most player-friendly organization he has been a part of. “I mean, this is definitely a players-first organization,” Rondo said. “I can’t say it’s not the best I’ve ever played for, as far as the staff, they’re great. They’re always very welcoming when you come in the door. We just speak all the time. They’re very polite. They ask if we can do anything for you. From Magic [Johnson], to Rob [Pelinka], they’re always around just trying to encourage you. “Or whatever you may need as a player, they’re always willing to give it to you or find a way to help you. So, off the court, on the court, getting pulled over by police, TMZ, I mean anything. They’re always there to try to figure out a rescue or make things better for their team and their players and the organization.”

There was a non-fictional inspiration fueling her decision-making process, too, one that was far more personal for Jeanie: Her ex-fiance’ and former Lakers coach, Phil Jackson, who won five of his record 11 titles with Bryant at his side. Jeanie had learned from Jackson’s mistakes in New York, where he took that job as the head of the Knicks front office in March of 2014 and was fired three years later after, as she saw it, he fell prey to the internal politics that have plagued that franchise for decades. “He should’ve made sure (to control) who was surrounding him, because the people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back,” she continued. “And so, I had not thought of it that way (with the Lakers situation). I was trying to do the least amount of change.”

But the Magic trick wouldn’t work, Bryant told her, unless she went all the way. “Jeanie, your father gave you the last word for a reason,” Bryant told her during their meeting. “You have to respect that wish as well. He gave you that final hammer to make the really tough, tough decisions. And sometimes, at some point, you have to step into that limelight and make those decisions. …You’ve got two ways of doing it. You can let it continue to fester and remove it piece by piece, or you just say, ‘To hell with this, we’re turning over a new leaf. I just brought Magic on, and I want to turn things around. I want to send a message, and off we go.’” Adds Bryant: “At some point, the mother of dragons just has to accept the fact that she has three big-ass dragons. Jeanie has always been reluctant to take the reins. I think she was very concerned or conscious about respecting her father’s wishes, of how responsibility of the team management would divvy up, and I could tell it had always been something that was kind of hamstringing her a little bit.”

When Jeanie posted an Instagram video of her debut stand-up comedy act on Sept. 6, you never would have known the true meaning of it all. At first glance, the 57-year-old was simply sharing a personal moment in which she took great pride. It was, it seemed, a charming and admirable attempt to broaden her horizons. In truth, it was more than that. It was an unofficial part of a therapy session that has been helping her for decades. “This is the first time I’ve talked (about it),” Jeanie explained. “I knew that once I did the comedy, and I posted it, and people knew that was something I was doing, I’d be asked about it. And I thought it was a good way for me to bring up how comedy is a way for you to talk about the things that are bothering you. And that’s what therapy is.

So Bryant told her, “Cut it all out at once. I know it’s hard to do, but if you want to turn this ship around, and turn it around sooner rather than later, then you’ve got to make those hard decisions.” Especially if the Lakers primary free agency target was the greatest player in the game. “Jeanie, I know who we’re trying to get; we know who we’re trying to get, so that player is not going to come here with all of this shit going on. It’s not going to happen,” Bryant told her. “So if you do want to have that focus, and go after that player, then I’m telling you that you’ve gotta clean house, and you’ve gotta just reshuffle the deck and start anew. You have the new practice facility (the UCLA Health Training Center) that we’re just moving into (in the summer of 2017). We’ve got new management, and off we go. But that player is not coming here unless you do that.

“As a player, it’s like, listen, it’s a cultural thing. You’ve got to have the right culture around, especially for him at this stage of his career,” Bryant explained. “You don’t want to come to a team and deal with a bunch of bullshit, right? You don’t want to come here and be part of an organization where the walls are talking and stuff is getting out left and right and you have this camp and that camp. You don’t want to do that. So I said, ‘You’ve got to start anew.’”

Pelinka explained how his time as an agent helped him make the Lakers attractive place to James and other players on “The Official Lakers Podcast”: “I think in addition to Kobe, just working as a player representative for all those years, it kind of let me into the mindset of what the players want from the franchises they’re playing for. What are the important things? Because I would hear all the complaints, like ‘Hey this team needs to do this better or that better.’ And I would witness the strengths because strengths aren’t complained about.”

MT: What can you tell me about how the Moe Wagner pick came about? Jesse Buss: We’d been tracking him for a couple years now at the University of Michigan, and some of the tournaments he’s played in overseas with his (German) national team commitments. He’s a player that has good size and a very high skill level. His has the ability to shoot, pass and handle the ball at that size (6’9’’), which is solid. He’s a high basketball IQ player with a great motor that really runs the floor well. That’s one thing that was definitely attractive. He had this personality when he came in and worked out for us where he showed a lot of toughness and charisma. That’s something that we definitely value as an organization as a whole. Obviously, (GM) Rob (Pelinka) has a connection with the University of Michigan, and he got as much information as possible about Moe before we made that selection. At summer league, I thought he rebounded better than I expected. I thought he showed a knack for getting down there and banging and rebounding better than he did at Michigan.

MT: Now that LeBron James is a Laker, does Wagner’s skill set stand out a bit more, especially if he’s able to knock down threes as he was at Michigan? Jesse Buss: Yeah, because he’s our only guy that can play the five position that can stretch the floor the way he did in college. He didn’t shoot as well in Summer League, but that was a small sample size, of course. I think that’s a natural fit right there. Obviously, LeBron has had a tremendous amount of success having shooters around him in his career. It just gives us a lot of different options, with a lot of bigs who can do different things.

B/R: LeBron is signed for several years, and the Lakers have this young core. It’s early, but can you envision Los Angeles being a place to settle down? Michael Beasley: I’ve felt like that every year for the last eight years, so I’m going into this situation with the mindset of playing basketball for a year and coming home to Atlanta at the end of the year and whatever happens, happens. I want a long-term contract, two, three, four years, 100 percent. But at this point, I’m tired of getting my hopes up and smashed. But the Lakers organization, from Rob Pelinka to Jeanie Buss to Magic, they’ve treated us like family. So, they did nothing wrong as to why I feel the way I feel. It’s just kinda like a battered-dog situation. I’m gonna take it a day at a time, and hopefully the days don’t end.

Like​ others his​ age,​ Can​ Pelister​ lives with his parents and can’t​ stop listening​ to​ Drake’s latest​ album. He​ likes​​ going to movies, eating out and cheering for the local soccer club. “A typical 20-year-old kid,” Pelister said last week while sitting inside a bustling Istanbul café. He is working his way through a local university, with plans for a degree in sports management. But his job makes that pretty tricky. He is an international scout for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Pelister, whose birthday was just last month, is younger than Lonzo Ball, who will be 21 in October, and two-thirds of the players drafted in June. But if 20-year-olds can be counted on to help NBA teams in the playoffs — Jayson Tatum, anyone? — Pelister has proved they can contribute behind the scenes, as well. Believed to be the youngest full-time scout in the NBA, Pelister will have traveled to 25 different countries by the end of this summer, bouncing from continent to continent to study prospects and draft reports that he sends back around the globe to L.A.

Laker GM rob Pelinka spelled it out last week, confirming reports that the surprising moves for Lance Stephenson and Rajon Rondo were Johnson’s choices, not LeBron’s. “Earvin and I had a conversation and LeBron echoed this sentiment,” said Pelinka. “I think to try to play the Warriors at their own game is a trap. “No one is going to beat them at their own game so that’s why we wanted to add these elements of defense and toughness and depth…” It won’t work. If the Lakers just came up with a counter-revolutionary adjustment that contains the shining emblem of an offensive revolution that was years of changing schemes and rules in the making, it will make all else in their storied history look like a bunt.
5 months ago via ESPN

Of course, that didn’t make it easier to fall back asleep the morning of July 1, as James made the choice that would either validate the Lakers’ new course or send them back to the whiteboard. “I had friends in town and was hanging with them,” Buss said. “But I must have been staring at my phone the entire time.” Finally, a few minutes after 5 p.m., she got a one-word text from Paul: “Congratulations.” “I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live,” she said. “This would make my dad really happy. This is something that he would want to accomplish.”

James clearly trusts Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka more than he ever trusted Gilbert. The four-year, $154 million deal he agreed to Sunday includes three guaranteed years. The fourth year is a player option, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. The last time he gave Cleveland a three-year commitment was 12 years ago when he was coming off his rookie deal. He even gave the Miami Heat and Pat Riley four years guaranteed in 2010. Despite his willingness to spend, James never trusted Gilbert enough to give the Cavs the same lengthy commitment.
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December 10, 2018 | 9:48 am EST Update
While New Orleans is trying to win enough to convince Davis to stay, the rest of the league is ruminating about what it would take to pry Davis away. Such speculation is happening constantly now, but executives around the league see virtually no chance that Davis is traded before the Pelicans can offer him that super-max extension in July. New Orleans, as it should, will do everything it can to keep Davis — and will move on from him only if it absolutely has to.
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If that happens, the Pelicans will have only one logical option: to trade Davis before he leaves in free agency. The same process has played out with several others, including Leonard, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George. None of them, though, would inspire the kind of bidding war an available Davis would. “That’s what you guys do,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said of the trade speculation. “You guys talk about it. He’s here. He’s playing on our team. We’re trying to win games. That’s the only thing that matters right now. “It’s not anything that I’m going to have a say-so in or anything else, so we don’t bother with it. We worry about now. We worry about winning games and putting everybody in the best position to win games.”
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Interestingly, Jimmy Butler and Brown agreed in separate interviews Sunday that the Sixers’ offensive spacing is fine. Butler has flourished here since arriving Nov. 12, having scored 38 points in each of the past two outings. “I think the spacing is great,” Butler said. “I think we have a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket. We just have to pick and choose where we’re going to be at a certain time. As long as we keep sharing the ball the way that we share the ball and guarding, I’m telling you, we’re going to win.
As for Embiid, Butler can empathize with having to adjust on the fly. “I know where his heart is, man,” Butler said. “I can feel for him. It’s new for myself. It’s new to him. It’s new to everybody. But we’re O.K. I know he wants to win. “He’s frustrated. He wanted to play (Friday and) coach didn’t let him play. We need him. He’s been doing a lot on both ends of the floor for this team. As our best player, I can understand him being frustrated. We’ll figure out ways to make sure he’s successful.”
But here they are, still together. Perhaps it’s because of Wade’s nature. Those who know him well will tell you he takes after his grandmother, who helped raise him and was extremely giving, accepting and forgiving. To be James’ friend for any length of time, maybe it requires a person whom James respects, but also someone who is willing to deal with the challenges James’ personality brings with it. Wade is one of the greatest players in NBA history; James certainly respects that. And Wade has been willing to roll with James’ changing moods and desires over the years. If Wade has ever held any grudge, it has never been apparent.
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And Lillard, 28, is something of a media chaos agent: He had the NBA watchers watching him this summer as he broke news of reporters changing jobs, reminding them — occasionally by force — that no one at this level is in the business of keeping secrets. “Nobody knew where I was getting my information from,” Lillard would recall, and the power and insider knowledge was at times intoxicating.