Storyline: Lakers Front Office

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2 hours 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.”

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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.
3 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.

It​ began with​ an​ innocent and​ rather hopeless DM​ via Twitter. “Jeanie,​ any​ chance you’d talk to​ my Chapman journalism​​ class?” I sent it to Jeanie Buss roughly 2 1/2 years ago, when I was an adjunct professor at the Orange, Calif.-based university, charged with teaching 13 aspiring journalists the art of an arguably artless art. I knew the Los Angeles Lakers CEO and co-owner a little bit, in that a half decade earlier we’d shared a lovely two-hour lunch while I was researching my book, “Showtime.” But were we friends? No. Buddies? No. Confidants? No. Amig— “Sure. When do you want me to come?” Um, really? “Of course. What day of the week is your class?” Wednesday evenings. “I’m there.”

I shrugged, and what followed was … magical. Amazing. Terrific. For the next 90 minutes, Jeanie Buss treated my students as if they were her peers. She spoke at length of her role as a woman in a largely male-dominated profession. She explained the mentality of Kobe Bryant, the joy of Shaq, the PR complications of being in a relationship with the head coach (Phil Jackson), the sleepless nights that accompany losing seasons. She was honest and upfront, and when (as she was trying to leave) an obnoxious and clueless student asked if he could have her personal e-mail, Jeanie somehow smoothly escaped without bruised feelings. In short, it was a master class in kindness and decency.

When I called to ask her about it, Jeanie seemed almost surprised. There are jobs a team owner is responsible for, she insisted. Addressing fans has to be one of them. “Why wouldn’t I respond?” she said. “They’re the ones who make this all possible. I want them to know they matter.” Sure, I said. But what about the angry ones? The ugly ones? The haters? “Well, the first thing I do is look to see their profile,” she said. “Usually, if they love the Celtics or are from Massachusetts, they’re beyond my reach. And that explains the hostility. But if they’re polite, that’s all I can ask for.
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October 16, 2018 | 8:46 am EDT Update
Tim Bontemps: If today was July 1, I think Durant would leave. I think it’s most likely he signs with the Knicks, and if not the Knicks I could see he and Kawhi Leonard teaming up with the Clippers. I would be surprised if he was with anyone but the Knicks, Clippers or Warriors next season, though. And I also won’t be surprised if he changes his mind plenty of times between now and when he makes that decision.
There are whispers around the league that neither Jimmy Butler nor Kawhi Leonard wants to play with LeBron, and sources I’ve talked to would be shocked if Klay Thompson left Golden State. That might leave the Lakers with Walker or Middleton as their top remaining free-agent targets. If I’m the Hornets, that possibility would have me worried.