Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson didn’t hold back during an appearance on ESPN’s First Take this morning, accusing general manager Rob Pelinka of “betrayal,” as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes. Johnson made it clear that Pelinka was the person he was referring to when he spoke during his resignation announcement about “backstabbing” within the organization.
“I start hearing, ‘Magic, you are not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office,'” Johnson said. “People around the Lakers office were telling me Rob was saying things, Rob Pelinka, and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back, that I wasn’t in the office enough. So I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things now were said to them outside of basketball now, just not in the Lakers office anymore.”
According to Johnson, he was prepared to help groom Pelinka as his eventual replacement atop the Lakers’ front office, but felt as if the GM was angling for his job sooner, and ultimately decided he couldn’t work alongside someone he thought was trying to undercut him. Asked whether there were others in the front office he felt betrayed by, Johnson only identified Pelinka.
“Just Rob,” Johnson said. “Other people didn’t bother me… what happened was I wasn’t having fun coming to work anymore, especially when I got to work beside you, knowing that you want my position.”
Here’s more from Johnson’s eventful TV appearance:
- In Magic’s view, there were too many cooks in the kitchen in the Lakers’ basketball operations department, writes Youngmisuk. Johnson specifically singled out president of business operations Tim Harris as an executive whose role and influence in basketball operations became outsized.
- Harris became involved in the head coaching decision after Johnson and owner Jeanie Buss debated the merits of firing head coach Luke Walton, according to Magic. Johnson wanted to replace Walton, but Buss apparently wavered on giving him the go-ahead to do so, as Youngmisuk details. “We went back and forth like that and then she brought Tim Harris into the meeting. Some of the guys and Tim wanted to keep [Walton] because he was friends with him. I said when I looked up, I only really answer to Jeanie Buss,” Johnson said. “Now I got Tim involved. It’s time for me to go. I got things happening that were being said behind my back. I don’t have the power I thought I had to make decisions. And I told them, when it is not fun for me, when I think I don’t have the decision-making power I thought I had, I got to step aside.”
- Johnson indicated that Tyronn Lue would have been his choice to replace Walton as the team’s new head coach (Twitter link via Clevis Murray of The Athletic).
- Discussing the Lakers’ 2018 free agent decisions, Johnson said that the Lakers didn’t want to offer Julius Randle a contract longer than one year, adding that Randle may not have been a fit anyway if he had remained on the roster (Twitter link via Murray).