The Liar and the Bully

Mature people do not threaten to hurt people, start rumors, seek attention, start pointless drama, gossip behind backs and overreact to every little thing. That’s immaturity.

For the Los Angeles Lakers, there is seemingly no bottom rung of dysfunction. In a well resourced article by Baxter Holmes (ESPN), the Lakers dirty laundry, detritus, and immaturity is consumed only to give the reader a stomachache. The sordid tales of incompetence, adolescent jealousy and power grabs reveal just how abusive, clueless, chaotic, miserable and anxious the Lakers front office is. No one trusting anyone else, a level of paranoia put in place by a ruthless executive in Johnson and a lying executive in Pelinka, and a leader of the circus in Jeanie Buss who is being manipulated by her friends. There are no heroes here. Everyone is part of the problem.

It’s sobering how far the Lakers have fallen, how reflexively they are tossing swords at each others carotid arteries, and how much this doesn’t resemble anything professional, or like past Lakers regimes.

Holmes outlines how Earvin Johnson leads with fear. He is abrasive, a bully, a hard boss with little empathy or kindness toward employees. He hardly works in the office, like most of us expected when he got the gig, and is defensive about it. Doth protest too much, Shakespeare would say.

That’s bad enough but Pelinka is someone no one trusts, which, frankly is worse. He seems to have issues with telling the truth. This should be surprising but it really isn’t. When he was introduced to the media two years ago, he put on this song and dance about character and how the Lakers only want players of the highest moral fiber. It was a cover for his own questionable character.

The front office of Johnson and Pelinka were micro managers and doing things other front office personnel just don’t do. It’s not cool to sit in on players meetings with coaches. Players and coaches are uncomfortable. But the Lakers management team continued to do so.

Jeanie comes off childlike, unable to make a decision, needing Linda Rambis to be the one in charge behind the scenes so no one gets how incompetent a leader Jeanie really is. Linda Rambis is proud of how she has Jeanie wrapped around her finger.

Personnel decisions aren’t discussed within the organization’s multiple departments, like scouting. Both Johnson and Pelinka seem to favor dictatorships.

Reading Holmes report is akin to reading about the Trump White House. There are the same issues of paranoia, secrecy, vitriol, anxiety, low morale, abusiveness. Jeanie is the Buss in charge and all of it falls into her lap. She hired Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. She refuses to fire Pelinka. Even if the Lakers get hosed in free agency, it’s unlikely that Buss will pull the trigger and get someone in the front office that has experience and that a corporate culture can respect.

As damaging as the article is for the Lakers, it is not rock bottom. That will be when LeBron James is solo sans superstar. When the best case scenario is trading Lonzo Ball and the #4 pick for Bradley Beal, the ship has a hole in it. Beal is good enough and can score but is nowhere near superstar status. He’s a good player.

And yet, that is the opposite of Jeanie Buss, Linda Rambis, Kurt Rambis, Rob Pelinka and all the other minor players who have taken a venerated franchise and have run it into the ground. At this point, Rich Paul should be calling the shots too. Why not? Everyone else is. (Baxter Holmes outlined a passionate Rich Paul pitching Adam Silver in November. He wanted Luke Walton out.) This is a soap opera.

The irony of all it is that the adults act worse than the kids. The kids- Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma- are the ones adulting. The adults are an unmitigated disaster.