The Los Angeles Lakers, once known for their dominance in the Western Conference and championship banners, have fallen on hard times. After last week’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the franchise was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for the fourth straight season. In their glorious history, LA had never missed the postseason more than two consecutive years.
In February, team President Jeanie Buss shook the organization to its core when she removed her brother Jim as Vice President. Longtime General Manager Mitch Kupchak and PR spokesman John Black were also relieved of their duties.
To the delight of purple and gold fans, NBA Hall of Famer and Lakers icon, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, was announced as the new President of Basketball Operations.
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Changes were surely expected, but this was a bombshell. Furthermore, the leading candidate for a new GM became Rob Pelinka.
A long-time sports agent in professional basketball, Pelinka’s clientel had included: Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Chris Bosh and Andre Iguodala to name a few.
While Pelinka has no NBA front-office experience, he’s not the first agent to make the transition. Lon Babby, Jason Levien, Justin Zanik and Arn Tellem all made similar moves in the past.
The idea of a sports agent running a franchise may be rare, however, not unprecedented. Most notably, the Golden State Warriors made Bob Myers their leading man in 2012, after 14 years as an agent. Since that time they’ve made the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons, winning it all in 2015.
When introduced at a press conference, Pelinka said the job was his “true calling” and vowing to be “aggressive” in aiding the struggling franchise’s return to glory.
Johnson also spoke about the decision to hire “outside of the box” and bring in a former agent.
“What I like about Rob, he’s competitive like I am, he wants to win. He’s an expert at the new NBA collective bargaining agreement and understands the salary cap. He has relationships throughout the league, which is very important,” Johnson added. “He understands college talent because he’s been recruiting them for many years to represent them. He understands the new-age NBA player because he’s represented so many of them.”
Fans on social media have also been quick to point out a striking resemblance between Pelinka and actor Rob Lowe. The new GM had fun with this during a Twitter Q & A:
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 16, 2017
Los Angeles has a lot of work to do, starting with the NBA Draft in June. Followed by free agency, which has been their achilles heel in recent summers.
Will the new powers atop be able to attract top-tier talent? Only time will tell in the city of Angels.