The Lakers are a mess, in case you hadn’t paid attention to the NBA for the last few years.
This isn’t exactly breaking news, but every deep dive into the dysfunction of the organization yields more examples of just how bad things have gotten for one of the league’s iconic franchises. The latest of these comes from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, who lit fire to the Lakers with thousands of words detailing a miserable work environment from top to bottom, littered with poor decision making and a lack of trust between just about all parties.
It’s a fascinating read, although not one that’s all that surprising, but it does feature a lot of sources speaking anonymously and emphatically about how bad things have been. There are stories of Magic Johnson berating team employees and being a “fear monger” as one put it. There’s details of how almost no one trusts Rob Pelinka or much of anything that comes out of his mouth, and Rich Paul and the Klutch Sports machine is not spared from criticism for trying to wield their influence over staff and personnel decisions.
Among the most interesting parts is how the rest of the basketball operations side of the organization has felt completely disconnected from player personnel decisions, with Pelinka and Johnson acting autonomously on that side. The best example given is 2018 free agency, when the front office decided the best players to pair with LeBron James would be Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, and JaVale McGee, none of whom provide any spacing and all of whom carry well-known baggage.
The reaction from Lakers staffers, quoted by Holmes, tells it all.
“We all had the same reaction that the basketball world did, like what the f— are we doing?” one Lakers coaching staff member told ESPN. “Not only are we not getting shooting, but we’re also getting every basket case left on the market.”
“We were all confused,” a front office staffer said. “All of it made no sense.”
Again, it’s not surprising as pretty much everyone that watches basketball regularly could see those signings were disasters waiting to happen both in terms of on-court fit with James and the potential for locker room combustion. Still, to see it laid out this plainly of how staffers knew it would be bad in real time is pretty spectacular and illustrates just how dysfunctional the Pelinka-Johnson run front office was — and seemingly still is even with the departure of Magic.
Another anecdote states they had two war rooms set up for draft night, with all the scouts in one and Magic and Rob in another, with scouts anticipating one pick (Omari Spellman) and Pelinka and Johnson making the decision to go with another (Moe Wagner). That might not be the wrong choice, but it’s another example of how bad communication has been with this front office and how those at the top seem to make their own decisions whether it has the backing of the rest of the organization or not.