Behind the Resurrection of the Lakers!
How Rob Pelinka went from being the face of the Lakers’ dysfunction to the unheralded mastermind behind the resurrection of the franchise
After six rudderless years of failure and disappointment, the Los Angeles Lakers finally appear to be on the verge of regaining long lost respect and relevance thanks to the quiet leadership and management of Rob Pelinka.
In five short months, Rob Pelinka has transformed the Los Angeles Lakers from a franchise in total disarray after Magic Johnson’s abrupt resignation and accusations of front office betrayal and dysfunction to an organization that’s now one of the favorites to win their seventeenth NBA championship. While the Lakers still will have to prove their mettle on the court, what Rob Pelinka has accomplished in such a short period cannot be underestimated.
What Rob’s done to resurrect the Lakers in five short months is miraculous, especially considering the hurdles confronting him, including self-serving claims of duplicity by Magic Johnson, false allegations of incompetence by a biased media, and calls for resignation from angry and disgruntled fans. Pelinka not only survived but used the opportunity to consolidate control, bring stability to the franchise, and set a firm course towards resurrection.
The key moves behind Pelinka’s rapid transformation of the Lakers were hiring Frank Vogel as the head coach, trading for superstar Anthony Davis, and building a talented and versatile roster to complement LeBron and AD. Pelinka was able to accomplish each of these critical steps through careful and savvy planning and execution despite an environment teeming with criticism and skepticism from fans and media questioning his decisions.
The controversial hiring of Frank Vogel to replace Luke Walton was a good example of the challenges Rob Pelinka faced navigating his way through the internal minefield the Lakers’ front office and ownership had become. The Lakers plan was to limit their new head coach to a three-year deal and have a say on the staff he put together, which ultimately eliminated Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue and resulted in the Lakers hiring Frank Vogel.
In retrospect, the decision to hire Frank Vogel was a key first move that demonstrated Rob Pelinka’s ability to work and create consensus with the front office and ownership factions he needs to control to run the Lakers. Since coming aboard, Vogel has been a positive and stabilizing force the Lakers’ organization has desperately needed. He’s earned the respect of the players, fans, and media and increased confidence in the team’s direction.
The second key move Rob Pelinka accomplished was the successful trade with the Pelicans for superstar Anthony Davis. After Magic Johnson’s failed midseason attempt to trade for AD, Pelinka was under intense pressure to complete a trade, with the press falsely accusing him of not understanding cap space rules and bungling the deal. In the end, Rob completed the AD trade while keeping Kuzma and enough cap space to sign Kawhi Leonard.
While Leonard ended up signing with the Clippers after a last minute trade for Paul George, Pelinka clearly showed he had the cap space expertise and negotiation skills to successfully pull off a blockbuster trade for a superstar. Pelinka’s savvy signing of Jemerrio Jones to a two-year contract last March proved to be a crucial move that gave the Lakers the salary ballast needed to make the AD trade and clear the cap space to sign a mid-tier max player.
The final step in Pelinka’s campaign to position the Lakers to be one of the favorites to win the 2019–20 NBA Championship was his quickly pivoting and smartly deploying the $32 million in cap space created to sign Kawhi to build a talented and diverse roster that complemented James and Davis. Despite the late start, Rob was able to sign the main shooters, playmakers, and defenders the Lakers targeted, losing only players who were overpaid.
One of Pelinka’s savvy free agency moves was to include LeBron James and Anthony Davis in major personnel decisions and to defer to Davis’ strong preference not to play heavy minutes at center during the regular season. That’s the strategy that led the Lakers to sign JaVale McGee and DeMarcus Cousins as centers to enable AD to play the four and the agreement to bring back center Dwight Howard when Cousins unfortunately tore his ACL.
With a month to go before preseason, the Lakers are hoping the Grizzlies will waive Andre Iguodala so he can join the Lakers to become the missing elite wing defender they need to guard opposing teams’ leading scorers. Since Iggy was a long time Rob Pelinka client, the Lakers should have the edge when it comes to signing him, giving them an important advantage over other teams, especially when it comes defense in the playoffs.
Rob Pelinka’s done a great job rebuilding the roster, restoring stability to the front office, and doing everything possible to position the Lakers to compete for a championship and redeem their status as an elite franchise. If LeBron James and Anthony Davis can stay healthy and the team play up to its potential, the Lakers could win their seventeenth NBA championship and Rob Pelinka could win his first NBA Executive of the Year award.
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