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Pelinka chose a younger and more dependable scorer (Schroder) over an inconsistent shooter (Green) and an unpredictable No. 28 pick. He did not fret over losing Dwight Howard since his hopes for a larger role contradicted the team’s plans to use him only when the matchups called for it. Nor did Pelinka fret over losing a wing defender (Avery Bradley) since the Lakers won an NBA title just fine without him, partly because of Caldwell-Pope’s presence. The Lakers still still need to address their backcourt with Rajon Rondo’s departure. But they added another trusted veteran in Gasol. And they would not have landed him if not for Pelinka’s prudence with avoiding to match Rondo’s market value and with performing a sign-and-trade to Cleveland.

Nonetheless, Pelinka still has an extensive holiday wish list. So even if the Lakers enter next season as NBA championship favorites, Pelinka believes those odds depend on what he does when free agency begins Friday. “It’s easy to fall into complacency when you win a title and say, ‘Hey, let’s just run it back,’ ” Pelinka said Thursday during a conference call. “But at the same time, my school of thinking is, ‘Let’s find ways to get even better.’

Johnson and Pelinka have had continuing conversations over the last year, culminating in that phone call after the Lakers won their 17th NBA championship, tying the Boston Celtics for the most. “I still have such gratitude for the two seasons I got to work with Earvin, and he’s definitely a part of tonight with his vision and working side by side,” Pelinka said in a videoconference late Sunday night. “He’s an unbelievable person, and we have a great, incredibly strong relationship. He was one of the first calls tonight. Had a great talk with him. “But I think what I have learned in life is the hard times or the trials is when you grow, and you turn to your faith, you turn to your family, your loved ones, and more than anything else, I think the lesson that all of us on the inside know is you’ve got to just be about the work. You can’t really get caught up in the noise. … I’m just grateful that the work that we put in led to this, and all the other stuff really doesn’t mean anything when you’re holding the trophy.”

“After I left, that stuff was in the past,” Johnson told The Times by phone. “But I was still a Laker and nothing changed there. And the love that Jeanie and I have for each other will always be there and always has been there. That didn’t change either. I’ve always wanted the best for the Lakers, and that’s why anything that I can do to help the Lakers back to winning an NBA championship, I was going to do. Rob and I were able to move past the situation, and now we’re good. We’re friends. We were talking about repeating last night.”

In retrospect, that meant Pelinka and the Lakers, without a contract of even $3 million to offer, remained in need of four players to complete an NBA title rotation. Alex Caruso: $2.75 million. Rajon Rondo: $2.56 million (vet minimum). Dwight Howard: $2.56 million (vet minimum, initially non-guaranteed). Markieff Morris: $1.75 million (buyout signing in February). Hit, hit, hit, hit. That’s $9.62 million combined for four guys playing vital roles for a team 48 minutes from a championship, fewer than 129 NBA players made individually this season. John Henson, a backup center for the lottery Pistons, ranked 129th in salary at $9.7 million.

But James wasn’t canceling this dinner. He’d been wanting to spend time with the woman who ran the Lakers since he’d chosen to sign with the franchise the previous summer, and he had something important to tell her. “We understand that things happen. We’re not pointing the finger at anybody, and we’re going to stay down with you,” James’ agent Rich Paul, who attended the dinner along with James and Lakers executive Linda Rambis, recalled to ESPN. “We’re committed to you and we’ll come out of this on top. We’ll come out of this different than what the world sees. Let the people who talk, talk. We just gotta do the work.”

There’s a reason Buss and James tried so hard to make that dinner happen on that off night in March 2019: They needed each other. “I know what my name, my stature and what I’ve done in this league comes with whenever I decide to join a franchise,” James said last week after the Lakers closed out the Houston Rockets in their second-round playoff series. “I know what my name comes with. And it comes with winning. I take that responsibility to the utmost [more] than anything. …

Executive of the Year award: Rob Pelinka getting no love

Among the voting constituents sampled, there seemed to be little support for the candidacy of Los Angeles GM Rob Pelinka, who helped a massive turnaround to vault the Lakers into the top seed in the West. In back-to-back years, Pelinka landed top-10 players in James and then Davis. He cleared out cap space and pivoted fast to get key supporting players such as Danny Green and Avery Bradley after holding out for days waiting to see if Leonard would sign with the Lakers. And he helped hold the team together after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, who was one of Pelinka’s closest friends.

General manager Rob Pelinka started the year swinging one of the biggest trades of the offseason for Anthony Davis and signing contracts for a team that would go on to be the West’s No. 1 seed. In the bubble, he’s a rebounder and occasionally a waterboy. His employees have watched him mop up sweat on the court at practices. “There’s no task that’s too low that we can’t come in and help,” Pelinka said. “Especially when it comes to our players and their safety and servicing their needs.” It’s who the Lakers believe they are. But in the bubble, it’s also an absolute necessity. “We’re all now essentially a man-and-a-half,” Hsieh said. “Everybody’s gotta pick up that extra half a person here, half a person there that’s missing.”

The Los Angeles Lakers have returned approximately $4.6 million that they received from a federal government program intended to help small businesses weather the economic burden caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the team said in a statement to ESPN on Monday. The Lakers, one of the NBA’s most profitable franchises, applied for relief through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, and were among the companies and nonprofits granted loans during the first round of distributions. But after reports that several large or highly capitalized entities were securing aid from the program’s initial $349 billion pool — while hundreds of thousands of smaller businesses were shut out — the Lakers said they returned the money. “The Lakers qualified for and received a loan under the Payroll Protection Program,” the Lakers said in a statement to ESPN. “Once we found out the funds from the program had been depleted, we repaid the loan so that financial support would be directed to those most in need. The Lakers remain completely committed to supporting both our employees and our community.”

Shaquille O’Neal: “The same thing that was going on in this documentary was going on with me. It was told to me that if we don’t win the series [2004 NBA Finals vs. Detroit Pistons] I’m out of there.” Chris Broussard: “It was told to you before the series started??” Shaq: “Yes, from somebody upstairs in the office, ‘Hey, if you don’t win this series, they’re looking to make changes’… I knew once we lost that it was time for me to do something else.” (Full Audio Above)

Through all of the Lakers’ self-inflicted drama, James remained silent — not even a passive-aggressive grumble on social media — as he gave the team space to work through the situation. James has sounded off in the past for far less significant organizational setbacks than these. He was frustrated, even angry, about these events, sources said, but his support didn’t waver. The message that came from James’ camp throughout the ordeal reflected only support for Buss and Pelinka.

Through all of the Lakers’ self-inflicted drama, James remained silent — not even a passive-aggressive grumble on social media — as he gave the team space to work through the situation. James has sounded off in the past for far less significant organizational setbacks than these. He was frustrated, even angry, about these events, sources said, but his support didn’t waver. The message that came from James’ camp throughout the ordeal reflected only support for Buss and Pelinka.

Through it all, a source said, the Lakers’ pursuit of roster changes in the past week was half-hearted. And that goes back to the tragic helicopter crash that took the life of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others on January 26, just 11 days ahead of the trade deadline. While much of the league has begun to move on from Bryant’s death, these Lakers are just in the early stages of that process. Going through the experience together has bonded them and it proved difficult to break that bond within the roster for the sake of some trade or another.

The wave of fancier job names stretches far beyond the Lakers, though — the titles on business cards of personnel around the league have become more scrutinized and yet more inscrutable. And yet they mean something in the NBA. “Oh, it matters,” said Bobby Marks, a former Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager who now works as ESPN’s front-office insider. Travis Schlenk, the Atlanta Hawks’ president of basketball operations, echoed the sentiment. “I know they’re important, and they’re important to my staff,” he said.

Does he miss it? “Part of me wishes I was there,” he says. But then looks down at those bikes. “But this is what I do. … This is what I’ve done for 40 years. … I’m never that guy that has one step in, one step out. I’m not that dude, and I couldn’t do that anymore.” He believes he should be given a fair share of credit for the Lakers’ fast start. “This team would not be in the position it’s in without me,” he says.

He talks about the trades he and Pelinka made to clear the salary cap space to sign James, notably the dealing of Timofey Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell. He talks about his recruitment of James. He talks about the players they drafted — Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart — who were included in the deal for Anthony Davis. ”This was my strategy, this is what I thought we’d be in three years,” he says. “I knew we were on the right track. Everybody wanted to do it their way, but I’m good with who I am. … I think people respect what I’ve done for the team.”

The Lakers hired Vogel, arriving under the shakiest circumstances. Vogel had been first contacted only to be an assistant. His introductory press conference was the one eclipsed by Magic Johnson’s latest TV broadside against Pelinka. Vogel was asked to take Jason Kidd, who had tried to promote himself as a head coaching candidate, as an assistant, a suggestion the new coach could hardly have resisted. Kidd has a well-known reputation for backstage intrigue. The Lakers are so sensitive to suggestions that he will undercut Vogel, they have told press people that Jason doesn’t want to do interviews, making him their first assistant who’s off-limits to the press.

Kobe Bryant and Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka maintain a really close relationship, but the NBA legend knows better to distance himself from the team’s affairs. In a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the Lakers icon stressed confidence in his former agent’s capability to handle business for the purple and gold. “No, I stay away from it. I’m real close with Rob obviously, and we’ll talk often, just as a sounding board for him. I stay away from that stuff. And Rob is more than capable of handling the job and all the pressure that comes along with that.”

Wade’s rationale sounds similar to the reasoning Magic Johnson gave when he surprisingly stepped down as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations before the final game of the regular season. During his impromptu news conference that day, Johnson said he thought about Wade and his inability to tweet at him or be at his final game because of his job. “I was shocked when he mentioned me when he resigned,” Wade said. “Magic lives an amazing life. I just got done seeing him in St. Tropez, as he’s celebrating his 60th birthday. He wanted to get back to that life. I was just appreciative that I was someone that he thought of and how he wanted to get a chance to see me play or to reach out before my last game. I wish he could have been there, but it was cool that he said that.”

Turner also provided the first details we’ve gotten to this point regarding what specifically Leonard and his camp wanted to learn from their conversation with Johnson: “There was one interesting question (Leonard) had for Magic: ‘Did you guys try to trade for me when I was in San Antonio?’ And the answer was ‘yes, but because it was Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, and our history, they were asking for 2,000 draft picks — well, not 2,000 — like four draft picks, first-round draft picks, and we just couldn’t do that.’ And that was one of his questions.
1 year ago via ESPN

While Cuban offered his support for the Lakers’ ownership — “I love Jeanie,” he said of Jeanie Buss, L.A.’s controlling owner and governor — he was dismayed by former team president Magic Johnson declaring on ESPN’s First Take last month that he would be interested in buying the team. “That’s a little bit self-serving,” Cuban said. “I don’t think Magic could afford them. And that’s no disrespect to Magic. That’s a reflection of just how well Jeanie has done.”
1 year ago via ESPN

Cuban is the father of three children. His eldest daughter, 15-year-old Alexis, is only slightly younger than Jeanie Buss was when she started working for the pro sports franchises owned by her father, Dr. Jerry Buss. Cuban said he can empathize with the family dynamic at play in L.A. “Jeanie is smart,” he said. “I think, not to speak for Jeanie, but the hardest thing for Jeanie has been that it’s family. And so there will be a time when my kids [take over] or not my kids, and I have to make a decision on how to integrate my family and who takes on what role, and that’s not going to be easy.
1 year ago via ESPN

“So Jeanie had to balance all that, and that’s a credit to her that she made her decisions. She stuck by them, and she made the tough calls. So Jeanie gets all the credit in the world. And unless you’re there, it’s really hard to understand. How do you balance the personal issues of a family with what you want to do for an organization? That’s near impossible to make those decisions, and Jeanie had to deal with it, and she did the best she can, so she deserves a ton of credit.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Pointing upstairs, toward his office, Johnson drove home his point. He had a large stack of resumes sitting on his desk — “a thousand” of them, multiple staffers recall him saying — and he could replace any of them at any time. “It was shocking,” said one Lakers coaching staff member who was present. “If you’re going to be in this business, you bring enough pressure on yourself. You don’t need more pressure, especially from someone who’s supposed to be an ally.”
2 years ago via ESPN

According to nearly two dozen current and former team staffers, ranging from occupants of executive suites to office cubicles, in addition to league sources and others close to the team, the Lakers under Johnson and Pelinka were fraught with dysfunction, on and off the court. These sources, who feared reprisal and weren’t authorized to speak publicly, describe Pelinka and Johnson as managers who made unilateral free-agent acquisitions; triggered a spate of tampering investigations and fines; berated staffers, including Walton; and created an in-house culture that many current and former longtime staffers said marginalized their colleagues, inspired fear and led to feelings of anxiety severe enough that at least two staffers suffered panic attacks.
2 years ago via ESPN

In the office, the staffer apologized and later, off site, began to cry, according to multiple people with knowledge of the incident. In the months ahead, she would suffer increased anxiety and panic attacks. She was prescribed anti-anxiety medication, quit the Lakers after more than two decades with the team, and began several weeks of therapy, multiple people familiar with the matter said. She gave her notice on Dec. 18, 2017, the same day Kobe Bryant’s two jerseys were retired. A Lakers executive said he also suffered panic attacks and had to be prescribed anti-anxiety medication. “Every day you go in there and you get this horrible feeling of anxiety,” the executive said. “In the last year, I can’t tell you how many panic attacks I’ve had from the s— that has happened there.”
2 years ago via ESPN

“There was one time when Kobe, who I worked with for 18 years, was going back to play in Madison Square Garden, and he had just seen ‘The Dark Knight,'” Pelinka said. “Obviously, you guys saw that movie, and he’s like, ‘Hey, hook me up with dinner with Heath Ledger, because he got so locked into that role. I want to know how he mentally went there.’ So, he had dinner with Heath, and he talked about how he locks in for a role. “And Kobe used some of that in his game against the Knicks.” “The Dark Knight” was released in July 2008, six months after Ledger died. A source with direct knowledge said no such arrangement was made and no dinner ever took place.

The Los Angeles Lakers have hired Judy Seto as Director of Sports Performance, it was announced today. Seto will report to General Manager Rob Pelinka and will oversee the medical care and optimize the health and performance of Lakers players. Seto most recently served as Director of Sports Performance for Select Physical Therapy, where she developed, designed and implemented sports science concepts and technology to maximize athletic performance, minimize injury risk and facilitate timely return to competition. Returning to the Lakers after serving as the team’s head physical therapist from 2011-16, she has previously worked in physical therapy roles with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles-based HealthSouth and the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.

“If you want to elevate yourself, I’m all for that,” Johnson said. “But there’s a way to get that, and it’s not talking about the person that’s above you.” Pelinka remains with the Lakers as general manager. “I didn’t like those things [Pelinka] was saying behind my back, that I wasn’t in the office enough,” Johnson said. “So I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things now were said to them. … Not just in the Lakers, into the media and so on.”

Pelinka responded on Monday afternoon at the press conference to introduce Vogel. He said that he talked with Johnson two days prior about the team having the No. 4 pick in the draft and denied all of Johnson’s accusations. “It’s saddening and disheartening to think things (that are a) misperception,” Pelinka said. “I think all of us in life have been through things where there are third-party whispers or he-said-she-said things that aren’t true… These things are surprising to hear and disheartening, but I look forward to the opportunity to sit down with him and talk to him because it’s simply not true.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Jeanie Buss had questioned Magic Johnson several times in the wake of his public resignation, asking to know if there were any issues with Rob Pelinka or anyone else in the organization. They spoke on the phone for hours. They went to a private dinner at Wally’s in Beverly Hills on May 2. Multiple Lakers sources told ESPN that each time, Johnson said nothing beyond what he’d said on April 9 — that he didn’t feel like he could be Magic in this role and wanted his freedom back.
2 years ago via ESPN

Linda Rambis, executive director, special projects. Don’t let the title fool you: Rambis is Buss’ longtime best friend and most trusted adviser. League sources have described her as a “shadow owner.” And while the buzz over Rambis gaining the most influence in the organization has intensified since Johnson stepped down, the fact is she has been Buss’ consigliere for four decades. Rambis, who was then Linda Zafrani, was one of the first hires by Jerry Buss when he purchased the Lakers in 1979, according to an article in The Beach Reporter. He reportedly introduced her to Jeanie and the two became friends and eventually worked together on the tennis and volleyball initiatives at The Forum.
2 years ago via ESPN

Johnson hired Rambis, a former Lakers forward and assistant coach, to be an adviser to the president in September 2018. With Johnson gone, Rambis has emerged as a powerful voice in basketball operations and played a major role in the coaching search, as Wojnarowski reported. Rambis has held positions with several organizations over his career, from assistant coach to head coach to assistant general manager, many of them served under Jackson with the Lakers and Knicks. His most recent job before rejoining the Lakers was as associate head coach of the Knicks from 2014-15 to 2017-18. Wojnarowski reported Jackson and Rambis strongly considered Vogel’s candidacy in New York before hiring Jeff Hornacek in 2016. Vogel would later tell New York reporters that he was surprised the Knicks didn’t hire him based on how his interview with Jackson went.

According to a person familiar with the negotiations, it wasn’t general manager Rob Pelinka but senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis who orchestrated the Vogel hiring. He also made the move for Jason Kidd, who will serve on the bench as an assistant coach. Multiple executives, when polled, suggested the Lakers should make sure they have their front-office hierarchy established before hiring a coach, and it appears they have, with Rambis stepping into that role. One executive even called him the Lakers’ “shadow president.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Vogel’s emerging candidacy speaks to the significant influence of Lakers adviser Kurt Rambis and former coach Phil Jackson, whose opinions weigh heavily with owner Jeanie Buss. Vogel was the runner-up to Jeff Hornacek when Jackson hired a New York Knicks replacement for Derek Fisher in the summer of 2016. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has spent the past few days gathering information from those who have worked with both Vogel and Kidd about how they believe those two could complement each other on a Lakers coaching staff, league sources said.

It looks like Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is counting on general manager Rob Pelinka to turn the franchise around without any help. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Lakers reportedly told coaching candidates they won’t hire anyone above Pelinka and that he’s in charge. Magic Johnson stepped down from his president role before the season ended. Pelinka has been leading the coaching search. “I know they told all of the candidates who interviewed Rob is the GM,” Wojnarowski said on the Woj pod. “Rob is going to be in charge. That’s who you’re going to answer to. We’re not bringing in anybody in over him.”

LeBron stunned by Magic's exit

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James didn’t believe it when he was told Magic Johnson had stepped down as president of basketball operations for the Lakers. In his first public comments since Johnson decided to leave the Lakers in April before the season ended, James relayed the story of how he found out from Randy Mims, James’ chief of staff. “My right hand comes to me and says, ‘Magic just stepped down,’ ” James said on HBO’s The Shop, which aired Saturday. “I’m like, ‘You mean from out of his car? Get the (expletive) out of my face.’ … He’s like, ‘Go check your phone.’ “

James, who was in the Lakers’ locker room but not playing in that night’s game, checked his phone. Indeed, Johnson held an impromptu and bizarre news conference, informing reporters of his resignation. “No one had no idea,” James said on his show. “We were like, ‘Damn, like right now?’ It was literally 70 minutes on the clock before (the game). I’m not playing, but my team is still playing, and you kind of decide to do that right here, right now. I feel like there’s a time and place for things, and I believe that you knew that you were going to make that decision, so why would you do it here and why would you do it now?”

“He explained to me Year 1 is going to be tough. … But I was OK with the process. At Year 16, you aren’t really supposed to be worrying about no damn process, especially for me because I’m in championship-mind mode all the time. “So it was just weird for him to just be like, ‘I’m out of here’ and not even have no like, ‘Hey Bron, kiss my (expletive). I’m out of here.’ I would’ve been OK with that. ‘Hey Bron, it’s Magic. Kiss my (expletive), I’m gone.’ Not even that.”

James and Paul met with Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka on the Saturday before that franchise-altering press conference for what was essentially James’ exit interview. They talked about the team’s and James’ goals for the offseason, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting. There was no indication that Johnson was on his way out. Then, about 90 minutes before the finale to one of the most disappointing seasons in Lakers history, Johnson held an impromptu press conference. He told a throng of reporters he was stepping down because the job wasn’t making him happy, because he didn’t want to have to ask owner Jeanie Buss to fire Luke Walton as coach, and because he was tired of being accused of tampering with other teams’ players so frequently.
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December 2, 2020 | 10:57 pm EST Update
Hours before the Warriors president of basketball operations spoke to the media Tuesday, a report dropped that Golden State had checked in with the Houston Rockets to gauge the availability of James Harden. When asked about his team’s interest in the 2018 NBA MVP, Myers turned quiet. “No, I’m not going to comment on everything that’s written about us, true or untrue,” Myers told the media. “I’m just not going to do that. I appreciate you have to ask, but if every call we made or didn’t make, I had to comment … I don’t think it’s productive on my side. “I understand why you ask these questions. Very fair to ask.”
The Wizards traded Wall to the Houston Rockets for Westbrook on Wednesday. On behalf of the Washington franchise, Brooks commented on the blockbuster trade. “Russell’s accomplishments and honors on the court speak for themselves, but his drive and will to win are what separate him as a truly unique player,” said Brooks, via David Aldridge of The Athletic. “As much as I’m looking forward to reuniting with hi, I’m equally sad to say good-bye to John. He is one of the toughest and most gifted players I’ve ever been around and we all wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
Storyline: John Wall Trade?