The NBA Finals begin this week with one team going for a third straight title and another seeking its first. However, the buzz around the league is instead about the bumbling franchise that is the Los Angeles Lakers.
Since Magic Johnson stepped down as team president before the final game of the regular season, it’s been an onslaught of slander, accusations and head-scratching stories revolving around Johnson, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka.
And though the situation appears largely hopeless from the outside, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has hope for the league’s marquee brand.
“I know Jeanie knows how to manage a team,” Silver said Wednesday morning on ESPN. “Sure, when things start to go wrong, a lot of fingers get pointed. But they’ll figure it out.”
“Jeanie will get it together.”
—Adam Silver has faith in Jeanie Buss and the Lakers pic.twitter.com/42tDYZ41FI
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) May 29, 2019
In a story published by ESPN on Tuesday titled “Lakers 2.0: The failed reboot of the NBA’s crown jewel,” it was reported that Johnson allegedly mistreated employees and didn’t put enough effort into running basketball operations for the team.
Johnson denied all accusations Tuesday night during an appearance on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
“I’m a person that brings everybody together. Uplift the employees. I’ve never abused an employee, and I never will. That’s not what I’m all about,” he said before touting his ability as a basketball and business executive. “You cannot be lazy going from playing basketball and winning five championships. So I wasn’t lazy as a player, and I’m not lazy as a CEO and a business owner. That’s never going to happen.”
Johnson’s focus on his other businesses and personal persona have been the main target for those criticizing his performance in the Lakers’ front office. In his surprise resignation speech, Johnson mentioned “backstabbing” as a reason for his decision to step away from the team.
As it turned out, Johnson was targeting Pelinka with those remarks.
“If you are going to talk betrayal, it’s only with Rob,” Johnson said earlier this month on ESPN. “I started hearing, ‘Magic’s not working hard enough,’ ‘Magic’s not in the office.’ People around the Laker office were telling me Rob was saying things and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back.”
Pelinka later described Johnson’s allegations of backstabbing “simply not true,” but the perception surrounding the Lakers is getting more perplexing by the day.
Buss, Pelinka, LeBron James and any fan of the purple and gold certainly hope Silver is right and that the Lakers get their house in order.