It’s just one thing after another with the Los Angeles Lakers. Everything seemed hunky dory when the storied franchise landed the biggest free agent last summer – signing LeBron James to a four-year contract.
But things took a turn south when the Lakers didn’t make the playoffs, President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson quit and the owner Jeanie Buss fired head coach Luke Walton.
And it got even worse on Monday morning when a bombshell report exposed the Lakers as being more dysfunctional than anyone previously thought.
In March 2017, nearing the end of the storied franchise’s 2016-2017 season – Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Rob Pelinka were formally introduced as the new leaders in the front office. Johnson would be the head honcho while Rob Pelinka would assume the general manager role – neither possessed experience in these positions.
Last week, Johnson appeared on “First Take” to set the record straight
And the hall of famer said, “I start hearing, ‘Magic, you are not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office.’ 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.”
But was Magic Johnson telling the truth about Pelinka or was he delusional – trying to save face after the embarrassing way in which he chose to leave?
This new bombshell report by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes released on Monday morning suggests it’s a combination of both.
The first thing Baxter uncovered was by a Lakers front office staffer who said about Johnson, “If you questioned him on anything, his response was always a threatening tone. He used intimidation and bullying as a way of showing authority.” That’s not at all the way his demeanor appears to be when he’s in public or in front of the camera.
Baxter also revealed, “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.”
An ex-Lakers player even told confidants – presumably Baxter as well – “It’s f—king crazy over there.”
One of the most bizarre stories in the piece is something Pelinka said during a meeting. Keep in mind, before Pelinka accepted the role of general manager, he was Kobe Bryant’s agent.
The report says Pelinka stood up in a meeting and told all of the Lakers players a story about how Kobe was so fascinated with how Heath Ledger embodied The Joker – his focus particularly – and asked Pelinka to set up a meeting with Ledger. Pelinka then claimed the two of them had dinner.
The only problem with that story is Heath Ledger has passed away six months before “The Dark Knight” even hit theaters. So that would’ve been impossible.
Baxter claims many current and former Lakers staffers describe Pelinka as being “untruthful” and “disingenuous” with everybody in the organization.
Also, controlling owner Jeanie Buss allegedly runs the team like a family business and they noted LeBron James’ agent Rich Paul was given unprecedented access to the organization and even used the team’s private jet.
You almost have to feel bad for the Lakers fans, but they are Lakers fans after all.