It is 21 days old. The hole that Magic Johnson dug by his shocking exit. In that period of time the only news coming out of Lakers land that is of any significance are the coaching candidates and who will be on the trip east to interview them, and the Lakers washing their hands of Luke Walton and the sexual assault scandal he is embroiled in. That’s it.
The Lakers have shaken off their Magic hangover and the Magic way of doing business. Private details are not public. The Rob Pelinka regime is a much more buttoned down organization with no one talking. Sure there is a lot of misogynist blather about Jeanie Buss’ relationship with Linda Rambis but that’s men who don’t understand the complexity of women’s relationships with other women and basically hating on women with power. Of the blood and guts details that matter, everyone is closed mouthed.
Are the Lakers hiring Ty Lue or not? How was Juwan Howard’s interview? Are the Lakers waiting for the 76ers playoff run to commence before they offer the job to Monty Williams? And if they offer the job to Monty Williams will they have competition for the job from the 76ers who may let go of Brett Brown if he bungles the Eastern Conference semis. All this speculation is coming from outside and not inside. The Lakers sans media addict Earvin Johnson are seemingly comfortable with no news is good news.
It’s a change and a throwback to the Jerry Buss way of doing things. Buss rarely leaked and when he did it was tactical. He wanted everyone to know in 1996 the Lakers were interested in Kobe Bryant who was considered a late lottery pick or worse, possibly a NBA bust. The Lakers had the 13th pick. They either wanted to trade up to draft Bryant or to let everyone know they wanted to draft Bryant so hands off, particularly when Bryant rebuffed the Nets.
Over a decade later, when the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol you heard about it after the trade was over. No leaking about talks between the Lakers and Memphis. You heard about it after the fact.
The only reason Miami was talked about in Shaq 2004 destinations was that Shaquille O’Neal gave the Lakers a list of teams he wanted to be traded to and Miami was one of them. With the exception of Dwyane Wade being off limits, no daily leaking about this player and that.
When the Lakers had a lottery pick in the 2005 NBA Draft and selected Andrew Bynum, everyone was stunned. Once again, secrets and subterfuge. The Lakers had everyone assuming they were drafting Sean May, Charlie Villanueva or perhaps even Gerald Green. Bynum came out of nowhere because the Lakers were not interested in appeasing nor asking for public approval. They left those internecine wars to someone else.
Pat Riley was adamant as coach of the Lakers. Everything stays in-house. Everything is quiet. Riley loved to talk about the peripheral opponent. That thing that takes you away from the goal and keeps you distracted so you don’t give 100%. In his eyes, that was everyone talking about what is going on, stuff that is none of their business.
When Magic came aboard, a media friendly guy who likes feedback from a national audience, it was leak after leak. He kept the D’Angelo trade quiet but everything else was for public consumption. We knew Magic loved De’Aaron Fox and that Lonzo’s workout was less than impressive. We knew how the LeBron pitch went, including many details. Magic let everyone know he cussed out Luke Walton for how he was coaching and that he didn’t like Walton’s staff, that there weren’t any veteran assistants (translation: no Kurt Rambis). Magic whined about the Lakers defense and then was suspiciously quiet when the Lakers defense was top-10 after LeBron was no longer in the lineup.
The Anthony Davis fiasco had Magic Johnson written all over it. Every day, some kind of leak. Dell Demps of the Pelicans played a part but only because Magic led him to the murky water of spilling trade secrets. Magic boasted of his desire to get rid of all the Lakers kids for the All-Star Davis. Those kids then nearly lost by 40 points in Indiana. Lacking nuance, Magic didn’t understand the Pelicans were stringing him along in some revenge fantasy where they got the last laugh. Anthony Davis may not be in New Orleans. But he won’t be in Los Angeles either.
Magic tried to pivot when he told the media that his young players need to grow up. This is the NBA. No. Boys. Allowed. It’s how Magic operates. Open. Available. Nothing hidden. But the kids are on social media. They know the things Magic implied about them. It made them moody.
Rob Pelinka- whether you think he is a back stabber, a cruel but efficient climber who steps on people’s necks, or just not important but in the right place at the right time, isn’t even on social media. That tells you what he thinks about other people’s opinions. Not much. Jeanie cares about the opinions of Lakers Nation and earlier was at her highest level of pissedivity. She heard Stephen A. Smith (ESPN) tell the world that Magic wanted to draft De’Aaron Fox but Jeanie told him Lonzo would be better at selling tickets. Jeanie was livid at the implication and thought she had an interloper in her office.
For anyone who thinks it’s a thing that GM’s hate Rob Pelinka for how he was Games of Thornes-ish as an agent, here’s a story from a billionaire.
When she still had her talk show, Oprah Winfrey was in contract negotiations with her syndicator King World. One morning when she arrived for a meeting a little early she noticed her lawyer was talking with the King World lawyer and joking about something. That day she fired her lawyer. She wanted counsel who was going to be a hard negotiator and being friendly was way off the table.
Rob Pelinka did business ruthlessly, ask the Cleveland Cavaliers who thought they had a handshake deal with Carlos Boozer until Pelinka accepted a lucrative offer with the Utah Jazz behind their back. (Note: Boozer and not the Cavs was Pelinka’s client. The Cavs hurt feelings was melodramatic). Pelinka’s clients not named Kobe Bryant were loyal to him as they should be. He served James Harden and Andre Igoudala and Eric Gordon well. It remains to be seen if he can pivot slightly and broker corporate relationships that are less adversarial and more buddy-buddy, you help me, I’ll help you. But keep in mind that the Memphis Grizzlies fired their front office and demoted their GM to a scout. They hired a 30 year old who interned for the Lakers, a Duke grad analytics guy with zero experience. He is someone that has no history with Pelinka and in him the Lakers may find a willing partner for something.
If Rob Pelinka has established himself as powerful in the organization then Kobe Bryant is valuable, influencing behind the scenes with advice, point of view, and strategy. Bryant too likes to keep things secretive.
Secrets is how the NBA used to operate before social media outed everybody.
Jerry Krause, the former GM of the Chicago Bulls, was paranoid as hell. He loved to stash draft picks in small towns until the draft was over. In those days, there was no draft combine. You scouted and then you hid players so other teams wouldn’t find them. That was the Scottie Pippen blueprint. Krause loved him but pretended he didn’t and when Seattle drafted Pippen the Bulls gave up Olden Polynice and everyone was confused. Who was Scottie Pippen?
So if the past is the present, the Lakers are going to do less media, not more. Let the playoffs be the playoffs. Everyone is on a need to know basis. It’s not the Magic Johnson way who thought all of basketball was part of his private family.
These Lakers have no room for error anymore. They are taking the Show out of Lake Show. It’s just Rob and Jeanie and perhaps Linda Rambis with the door shut tight. Everyone out.
It’s so 1986.