Explaining The Lakers

A team that's missed the playoffs for six straight seasons.

Jim Rome
May 28, 2019 - 10:36 am
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka

USA Today

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So in the first part of Magic: The Disaster-ing, I got into the fact that it sure seems like Magic was not a good dude, or a good employee or a good boss. You know, what with him allegedly not showing up to work very often and then bullying and intimidating people when he did.

But let’s not get so focused on the fact that he was allegedly bullying people into panic attacks that we lose sight of the fact that the team of Johnson and Rob Pelinka were just flat out weird when it came to actually assembling a roster.

There was the time where they reportedly had two different war rooms during the draft. One for Johnson and Pelinka, one for everyone else, and Johnson and Pelinka went off the board and drafted someone who the scouts and front office staff weren’t expecting.

And then there’s the one good moment for them – the signing of LeBron James. Which was promptly chased by signings that made no sense to anyone either inside the building or out, to any other other than Johnson and Pelinka. Signings like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Michael Beasley.

If you were confused by surrounding LeBron with a bunch of non-shooters and combustible personalities, you weren’t alone. One coaching staff member told Holmes: "We all had the same reaction that the basketball world did, like what the bleep are we doing? "Not only are we not getting shooting, but we're also getting every basket case left on the market."

And it is worth noting that some of this, or all of this, could be sour grapes from former Laker employees. And if that’s the case, there’s enough sour grapes to start a wine label.

But here’s the thing about this entire report – it is not surprising. It is not even remotely surprising. Listening to this summary, does any of this surprise you at all? Are you surprised that the culture is a disaster or that they don’t appear to have a plan?

Oh, and while a lot of this is directed at Magic, it’s not like the rest of the organization skated. There’s the through-line that the organization doesn’t have a plan, that Magic and Rob don’t know what the hell they’re doing weren’t’ prepared to do the job they were hired to do, and that they bend over backwards for agents too often.

Pelinka was described as someone who sometimes told stories could not possibly have been true. And one coaching staff member said: "We think, more often than not, he's not being truthful. That goes throughout the organization."

And most damning of all, is the fact that it probably won’t change. According to Holmes, “Multiple team staffers, as well as others close to the organization, cast doubt on the possibility of the team changing its pattern of "Lakers family" hiring’s or on overhauling the culture itself. As one source close to the coaching staff said of Buss, "She has accepted that this is who they are."

And maybe it’s not Jeanie Buss who has accepted that this is who the Lakers are, but rather, Linda Rambis has. Because you know that running joke about how Linda Rambis is the “shadow owner” of the Lakers? According to one front-office staffer, Rambis knows about it and “she loves it.” And even more insane, “she controls and manipulates Jeanie.”

Again, given how horrendous they’ve been, it’s not shocking to hear that, but still: Linda Rambis allegedly running the Lakers?!? Anthony Peeler’s wife didn’t want in on that? Members of George Lynch’s family passed on the job? Sasha Vujacic’s cousin isn’t running the draft board?

Again, any time you read a report like this you have to take into consideration who is being quoted and what they might get out of it. There might be people who are bitter and are looking to take it out on Magic, Rob, Jeanie, Linda, and whomever else. But then you look at the fact that they’ve missed the playoffs for six straight seasons and you think, yeah, this all kind of makes sense.

To recap: You have a former player who’s bullying and intimidating people, when he does bother to show up at work. 

You have a former agent who appears to be in over his head and might have issues with the truth. 

You have a team owner who seems to think this is just the way it is. 

And you have a “shadow owner” who is manipulating the actual owner. 

And that is how you end up with a team that's missed the playoffs for six straight seasons. That's how you end up with an organization that went from the gold standard to the toilet in a heartbeat. That's how you end up with elite free agents turning down the Lakers time and time again. And then when you do luck into the greatest of all free agent signings, you still manage to screw that up. 

That is amazing. It really is. If the goal was to miss the playoffs for six straight years and absolutely run the franchise into the ground, that’s how you’d do it. In fact, you couldn't do it any better if you tried. It takes a team effort. One guy like Magic can't destroy a whole organization and a team's reputation. It takes a number of people working really hard to do that. And that’s what they’ve done.