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Reports: Magic Johnson wanted to fire Rob Pelinka, who’ll instead keep (maybe gain) power within Lakers

Earvin "Magic" Johnson & Rob Pelinka Los Angeles Lakers Media Availability

EL SEGUNDO, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Rob Pelinka discuss the upcoming Los Angeles Lakers’ season at UCLA Health Training Center on September 20, 2018 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

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As Lakers president Magic Johnson could seemingly do whatever he wanted, including not work very hard. Until his stunning resignation yesterday, Johnson was clearly set to fire coach Luke Walton.

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN:

But you also hear that he may have wanted Rob Pelinka gone, and there was resistance there.

Now, I spoke to Jeanie Buss, and I spoke to Rob Pelinka. And both categorically and emphatically denied that there’s any truth to that whatsoever. But in the hours and the days to come, you’re going to hear that nugget of information percolating and really resonating.

This has been percolating for months: Rob Pelinka might go into the office or into the Lakers facility, “Hey guys. How are you doing? Where’s Magic Johnson?” knowing that Magic Johnson wasn’t there in an effort to bring attention to the fact that Magic Johnson wasn’t there.

Of course, Rob Pelinka has denied that, as well. And in fairness to him, there are people out there that are his enemies, that have never liked him, and they will talk about him. And to his defense, some people might make some stuff up. I’m just telling you, you’re hearing these kinds of things. And you were hearing these kinds of things in the days leading up to Magic Johnson announcing it.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
The team is still assessing Johnson’s decision, but general manager Rob Pelinka will stay in his job, and, if anything, his power will grow, sources told Shelburne.

Johnson and Pelinka were an odd president-general manager pairing. They lacked experience in basketball operations, and they had no clear prior connection. Johnson was a great Lakers player. Pelinka was Kobe Bryant’s agent. That was it.

So, it wouldn’t be surprising if their relationship turned contentious.

That said, as Smith noted, Pelinka has rubbed plenty of people the wrong way. It’d be easy for people who dislike him to smear him.

But whatever people think of Pelinka personally, the Lakers’ roster construction is, as LeBron James said, “[fart noise].” Maybe that’s all Johnson’s fault. But I certainly wouldn’t keep Pelinka without him explaining his role in the front office’s many missteps.

Considering the Lakers’ resources, they should probably do better than just promoting Pelinka. And if they hire a new team president, that person should have authority to choose underlings. Pelinka shouldn’t be part of the package. If Jeanie Buss insists Pelinka stays, that will turn off candidates.

There’s still so much of this situation to uncover. The Johnson-Pelinka dynamic isn’t totally clear. With Johnson blindsiding everyone, I’m not sure the Lakers are set on their next steps, including how to handle Pelinka.

But Johnson said something yesterday that sure fits this narrative:

What I didn’t like is the backstabbing, the whispering. I don’t like that. I don’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on.