Will the Ghost of Kobe Save Pelinka?
How Jeanie Buss’ loyalty to Kobe Bryant who recommended she hire Rob Pelinka could prevent her from replacing him as GM
Jeanie Buss’ love and loyalty to Kobe Bryant could be the monkey wrench that prevents her from firing Rob Pelinka and pursuing a top tier president of basketball operations and general manager like the Warriors’ Bob Myers.
Numerous troubling reports from Stephen A. Smith, Ramona Shelburne, and Adrian Wojnarowski claim that the primary reason Magic Johnson resigned as president of basketball operations of the Lakers was not because Jeanie Buss wasn’t willing to allow him to fire head coach Luke Walton but because she wasn’t willing to support his desire to fire general manager Rob Pelinka, who had been hired directly by Buss on the recommendation of Kobe Bryant.
According to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith: “Magic Johnson walked into there and talked with Jeanie about wanting to get rid of not just Luke Walton, but Rob Pelinka as well, that’s when Jeanie Buss got her back up. Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka called me last night, categorically and emphatically denying that there’s any truth to that whatsoever. But whether it’s Wojnarowski, whether it’s Ramona Shelburne, or a host of other NBA reporters, all of us have heard that [Magic Johnson wanted to fire Rob Pelinka] within the last 12 hours.
There have been numerous articles over the last year reporting that Jeanie Buss has been actively trying to get Kobe Bryant involved in the Lakers along with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. It’s also important to remember that it was Buss and not Johnson who hired Pelinka in the first place. Confronted with a franchise determining decision, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jeanie turn to Kobe for advice. Nor would it be a surprise to see Kobe support Rob, who was his friend and longtime agent whom he recommended for the job.
We’ve all seen this movie before. When a crisis strikes, Jeanie Buss always turns to the Lakers family for counsel and advice. That’s how we ended up with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka in the first place. But the circumstances facing Jeanie and the Lakers today are totally different than when she wrest control of the Lakers from her brother Jim and former GM Mitch Kupchak. The Lakers then were a very unattractive landing spot for a top executive.
The situation today is the complete opposite. Despite a mistake plagued and disappointing two years, Magic has left the Lakers in a terrific position going forward. He’s not only gotten rid of the bloated contracts from the Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak era but locked up LeBron James to a long-term contract, drafted a bevy of very tradeable young stars, and cleared $38 million in cap space to sign a second free agent superstar to go with Lebron this summer.
The timing of Magic’s resignation was a godsend for the dysfunctional Lakers and has given Jeanie Buss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to right the ship and cast the last six years of frustration and losing to the junk heap of history. But taking advantage of that opportunity is going to require that the Lakers make the right moves and hire an experienced, respected, and trusted front office executive who can restore trust and faith in the franchise, build the relationships with other GM’s, and make the right decisions going forward.
Leaving Rob Pelinka in control of the front office or promoting one of her younger brothers, who have done an exceptional job drafting young talent, is not the smart formula for taking full advantage of this unique opportunity. Now is the time for Jeanie to look outside the Lakers family for the best top tier front office executive she can find. The Lakers president of basketball operations and general manger position is a perfectly positioned dream job that would surely attract an elite candidate like Bob Myers or Masai Ujiri.
If Jeanie is smart, she will disregard the biased advice from Lakers insiders like Kobe Bryant, Linda Rambis, and even Magic Johnson. The only person in the Lakers family whom Jeanie would be smart to trust and turn to would be former Lakers general manager Jerry West, who is too old to be considered for the position but would likely be willing to help her as a consultant. I’m sure that Jeanie could ask Ryan West, Jerry’s son and the Lakers Director of Player Personnel to act as a go-between to set up a metting with his father.
Bottom line, Jeanie needs to understand the gravity of the opportunity before her and not allow her relationship with Kobe Bryant or Linda Rambis blind and prevent her from making the best decision for the Lakers going forward.