After today’s drama, what’s next for the Lakers and their fans?
Four and a half hours.
That’s all it took for the Los Angeles Lakers to turn the sports world and social media upside down.
The series finale of “Game of Thrones” was supposed to be Monday’s main point of conversation. However, that quickly disappeared the minute Magic Johnson appeared on ESPN’s “First Take,” as he went into detail about why he so abruptly walked away from the Lakers, while unapologetically naming names.
A few hours later, the main name and a big reason why Johnson left, Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka, was in front of the media facing questions during new Lakers head coach, Frank Vogel’s, introductory press conference.
Vogel became the sideshow in his own press conference. But that’s what happens when the man whose statue stands in front of the Staples Center labels his former colleague a backstabber.
“If you’re going to talk betrayal, it’s only with Rob,” said Johnson on First Take.
“Truly it’s saddening and disheartening to think he believes things that are a misperception,” said Pelinka hours later during Monday’s press conference.
“I think all of us in life probably have been through things where maybe there’s third-party whispers or he-said-she-said things that aren’t true. And I have talked to him several times since he decided to step away; we’ve had many joy-filled conversations. In fact, two days ago, we were reliving the combine and [the Lakers winning] the fourth pick [in the NBA draft] and talking about the great future that this franchise has.”
It’s up to you to decide on whether or not you believe everything Johnson said to be true, just like it’s up to you to decide if Pelinka is as bad as Johnson says he is. But while I can’t tell you who and what to believe, there is something that can’t be debated.
The L.A. Lakers are a dumpster fire.
Because on a day in which Lakers owner Jeanie Buss was nowhere to be found, the Lakers let their newest employee speak for a franchise that’s been in disarray for years.
“The perception of our organization is very different from the reality that I’ve experienced in my time here … There’s a positive vibe with our team right now,” said Vogel.
Frank, stop it.
Even before all of this happened with Johnson and Pelinka, this is the same organization that has endured the D’Angelo Russell situation, LaVar Ball’s antics and Paul George turning them down as they sit in the midst of their longest postseason drought (six seasons) in franchise history.
Two weeks ago, The Shadow League examined how the Lakers are overestimating the strength of their brand, as we have more than enough evidence to see that “playing for the Lakers” doesn’t carry the same weight it used to.
This leads to three very important topics that the organization needs to address: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and their image headed into free agency.
When Bryant had both of his jerseys retired during a ceremony in December of 2017, Johnson referred to Bryant as “the greatest who’s ever worn the purple and gold.”
Fast forward to Monday, and now we’re all wondering what Bryant’s role has been in all of this as Kobe is the sole reason why Pelinka is even around. Remember, if Pelinka didn’t serve as Bryant’s agent for all those years, you could make the argument that Monday’s event never would have happened.
And then there’s LeBron, because as we all know that this isn’t what he signed up for. During an episode of James’ ESPN+ series “More Than An Athlete,” there is a scene in which James, his agent and longtime friend Rich Paul, and Pelinka are at his home signing his Lakers contract. During the scene, Pelinka keeps stressing to James and Paul to let him know if anything pertaining to the Lakers isn’t up to par.
Well LeBron, this would be the time to speak up.
But who would be the right person for James to speak with? Given the logjam of people who make up the Lakers’ brain trust, it’s unclear as to who he should approach, an issue which bleeds into potential problems that could occur during free agency.
“Once you get in that room and you got LeBron sitting there, see everything changes,” Johnson explained about what could happen this summer, as he mentioned Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard as who he thinks the Lakers should target.
That sounds good, but when free agency negotiations begin on June 30th, will enough time have passed for guys like Irving, Leonard and others to feel comfortable enough with signing with the Lakers given all that’s happened this season?
But despite everything that went down between 10:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. EST on Monday, what makes this situation even more unique is that it was all foreshadowed by the one person that’s often ignored.
“From my point of view now and listening to him talk and stuff like that, he’s (Magic) just a face. I don’t think his say-so is like his say-so is,” said LaVar Ball on a February episode of FS1’s “Undisputed.”
“I’m trying to figure out who’s in charge. That’s why the system is crumbling down. I don’t know what’s going on over there.”
LaVar Ball has become a prophet, which means that even more drama could possibly be on the way.