The Lakers Are A Disaster

What’s worse – Magic not being around or Magic being around.

Jim Rome
May 28, 2019 - 10:11 am
Magic Johnson

USA Today

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It is the Tuesday after Memorial Day Weekend. Summer has unofficially officially started. The sports calendar is full. The Stanley Cup Final started last night. The NBA Finals start on Thursday. And Cody Bellinger is embarrassing fools left and right. There are plenty of places for me to start… and then there’s the place WHERE I’m ACTUALLY going to start …AND INCREDIBLY….IT’S – with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now, let me preface this by saying I don’t want to start here. They have become such a train wreck that it’s almost lazy to start here. I mean, I can crack open the mic and open every show by saying, damn, you see or hear what went down in El Segundo yesterday??And then just roll calls about it for three hours. Maybe throw in a tweet or two from Magic or point out something stupid the organization has done and then call it a day. 

I could do that; and then the show would do itself. I could. But I don’t want to. And the only reason I’m starting with the Lakers today is something that first came up when Magic quit the Lakers for Twitter. He was asked about an article that was allegedly being worked on at ESPN. And this is what he said:

“They’ve been talking about that article for how many months? (Laughs) Everybody run up, ‘Oh they writing an article.’ OK. Great. I’m going (to) say ‘Why didn’t you interview everybody at ESPN? You know how many times ESPN hired me? Twice. If I was doing something wrong to employees, disrespecting, you think they would have hired me twice? No. I know that article is not an accurate article. I can tell you that now. …Now it’s some disgruntled, former Laker employees (talking to reporters). Yeah, they gonna say (what) they gonna say, ‘cause they wasn’t doing their jobs. So what is a person going to do? Point the finger bad about the person who fired them. I’m good. I’m a big boy.”

Well, Baxter Holmes of ESPN dropped an article today. I don’t know if it’s THE article, but it’s AN article and it’s north of 6,000 words. And pretty much none of those words are good for Magic, Rob Pelinka, Jeanie Buss, or the Lakers. It describes the reboot of the Lakers, the SO-CALLED, Lakers 2.0, as a complete disaster.

The piece is amazing. I’m not sure I’d call it a sledgehammer because just about none of it is surprising, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect. It’s just that this pulls it all together.

Culture is the single biggest buzzword in sports now. And the according to multiple sources for this article, the Lakers under Magic had a culture of intimidation, bullying, fear, and incompetence, to the point where multiple staffers had anxiety attacks.

Or to quote one former Lakers star: "It's bleeping crazy over there."

Starting from his very first meeting with the employees, where Magic reportedly told them repeatedly that he had “a thousand” resumes sitting on his desk and he could replace any employee at any time. One coaching staff member who was present said: "It was shocking. If you're going to be in this business, you bring enough pressure on yourself. You don't need more pressure, especially from someone who's supposed to be an ally."

And allegedly, that was just the start from Johnson. According to one front office staffer: "If you questioned him on anything, his response was always a threatening tone. He used intimidation and bullying as a way of showing authority."

Only a couple of paragraphs in and we’ve already hit on intimidation and bullying, so Magic’s claim that ESPN has hired him twice, which seemed really weird at the time, seems even dumber now.

And then there was that claim from Magic that Pelinka was stabbing him in the back by saying that he wasn’t always in the office. It was a widely known fact that Johnson wasn’t grinding the way most front office personnel grind. And here’s further evidence of that – according to Holmes, Johnson “was frequently absent, sometimes appearing only once a week or every two weeks.” And then when he did show up, apparently, it was just to bully someone into a panic attack.

This truly is amazing. Like incredible. The man is the president of basketball operations… for an NBA TEAM. For theeee NBA TEAM. And he’s showing up once a week or once every two weeks. He’s treating being president of basketball operations the way most people treat the gym – I’ll get there if I can, but I’ll probably only get in a couple times a month.

And when he does roll in for one of his weekly visits, by this account, it was a nightmare for anyone and everyone he comes in contact with. 

One staffer, who had been with the Lakers for more than two decades, was shouted at by Magic over a mistake to the point that she left the facility, began to cry, and then in the months that followed suffered increased anxiety and panic attacks, and then left the organization.

And she wasn’t alone. One Laker executive told Holmes that he also suffered panic attacks and was prescribed anti-anxiety medication: "Every day you go in there and you get this horrible feeling of anxiety. In the last year, I can't tell you how many panic attacks I’ve had from the bleep that has happened there."

And if you think Magic is the charismatic guy with the million dollar smile, that’s apparently not the case behind the scenes. One former member of the training staff said: "He comes off to the fan base with the big love and the smile. But he's not -- he's a fear monger."

Another referred to working with him as a “roller-coaster ride of up and down.”

Bad enough to be a horrible guy but good at your job. This just sounds like a horrible guy who was horrible at his job.  In fact, he showed up for the job at all. 

Then there’s the organizational staff turnover, which Holmes calculated at 37.5% since the 2016-17 media guide was published. If you’re running through more than a third of your staff every few years that tells that’s a horrible place to work.

Now, it’s worth noting that no official complaints against Magic were filed to the team or the league. But if you believe what you read in this piece, and why wouldn’t you, it’s just further evidence; of what I have always said: we really don’t know any of these guys.  Because If I were to ask you what you thought of Magic Johnson, many of you would say, best guy ever. When if you ask any of the people who spoke to this reporter, they’d probably say one of the worst guys ever. And if he’s not that, then he might be the worst boss ever. I mean, what’s worse – Magic not being around or Magic being around. Tie for last. And that’s only Part I of this complete and utter disaster. There’s more but I can’t fit it all into just one segment. That’s how much of a mess it is. That’s how big a mess they are. Big enough, that I would roll out of Memorial Day with a take on the Lakers…and they weren’t anywhere near sniffing the postseason.