By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
The Los Angeles Lakers must really be taking their supposed role as “L.A.’s team” very seriously, because even though their season has been long over, they can’t help but dominate the headlines with more questionable news that doubles as irresistible drama worthy of any Hollywood studio set.
In regards to the once-proud franchise’s search for a new head coach, talks recently stalled and were essentially terminated between the Lakers and Tyronn Lue, once thought to be a sure candidate for the Lakers’ open position, thanks to what many consider a low-ball offer on the Lakers end.
The painful playing out of this situation clearly tells us two things: general manager Rob Pelinka and principal owner Jeanie Buss do not know what they are doing and the Lakers need to bring in the best of the best in both positions of general manager and president of operations (meaning some outside of the Laker tradition, unless we’re talking Jerry West) to get the franchise back in order.
When Jeanie Buss took over ownership of the Lakers in 2017, we thought the era of horrific decision making resulting from the reign of her brother Jim Buss would be over and the Lakers would be revived. Adding Magic Johnson as the top boss was delicious icing on the cake that signaled more good times to come. However, it did not pan out the way they thought.
Magic’s reign running basketball operations played out with a series of decisions that didn’t look so bad when they were first enacted but looked worst and worst as time went by — trading current All-Star D’Angelo Russell in order to draft Lonzo Ball, signing off on not re-signing Julius Randle and Brook Lopez, replacing such players with Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee. And of course we cannot forget the fantastic fiasco of the bungled Anthony Davis trade from this past season, which led into the firing of former coach Luke Walton and the unexpected resignation of Magic at its very end.
Instead of creating effective change and keeping the Lakers competitive in a new era of the NBA, Jeanie only seems to be adding to her brother’s mismanaged era and deepening the hole from which the Lakers are trying to emerge, a hole that started to sink before Kobe Bryant was an Oscar-winning film producer. If Buss wants to get this right, she needs to have people in her office that know what they are doing, which means Pelinka has to go.
Listen to the latest “In The Scope Podcast” featuring Joshua M. Hicks (anchor.fm)
We knew upon his hiring that Pelinka, most famously known as Bryant’s agent, did not have any experience in any front office and his performance as a GM shows that painfully.
During the last trade deadline, it was reported that Pelinka could not even get on the phone with other teams to make deals because of the reputation he built as a former league agent, stealing superstar clients from other major representations. Recently with the negotiations process of Ty Lue, he underestimated Lue’s resume and capabilities as a coach and wanted to limit his power, particularly by insisting that long-time Lakers yes-man Kurt Rambis serve as one of his assistant coaches.
Maybe the former Laker Lue is being shown a lack of respect dating back to his time as a role player in L.A. But in the time since he’s become a lot more than the man that got crossed and stepped over by the legend Allen Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals. Winning two NBA championships as a Laker and playing a prominent role in bringing the Cleveland Cavaliers their first ever NBA championship while mostly coexisting peacefully with LeBron James (you know, the guy the Lakers kind of need a lot from right now) affords Lue more respect than the disrespectful 3-year, $18 million deal the Lakers offered represented.
Given the current state of the Lakers, they should have given Lue the respect he deserves, which would have been nothing less than a 5-year deal and the ability to build his own staff. Now, L.A. is reaching (i.e. meeting with J.B. Bickerstaff) in the wake of preferred candidate Monty Williams turning down the Lakers to join the Suns and Lue backing out.
Looks like they didn’t work with Pelinka and we’re pretty sure Magic didn’t want with Pelinka — basically, Pelinka is not the right person for the job, and Lakers ownership/front office needs to stop trying to control everything like Dr. Buss did back in a much simpler time. They need make adjustments fast to get someone more experienced to run the show or the Lakers will fall much further behind competition throughout the NBA.
Ridiculous signings like those of Timofy Mozgov, Luol Deng and Jordan Clarkson aren’t the norm anymore with this team but neither are the kind of seismic free agent signings or trades from the franchise’s glorious past — 1975 Kareem isn’t walking through that door, nor is ’96 Shaq and neither will 2020 AD if the Lakers do not not get their act together.
The Purple and Gold still represents a revered franchise and most of the top-tier candidates to run NBA front offices have spent their entire lives watching the Lakers win, there’s no reason they wouldn’t consider serving in the team’s front office.
Jeanie needs to stop letting her close friends tell her what to do and get in tune with the reality: that breaking tradition and stepping outside the Laker brand to bring in the best of the best — no matter the connection to her and her family — is the only way to revive this franchise with King James in town and the revive the legacy of the Buss family name.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media