20 May 19
Miss the finale of “Game of Thrones” on Sunday night? Never fear, we’ve got all the palace intrigue you can eat.
Magic Johnson appeared Monday morning on ESPN’s “First Take” and unburdened himself.
Spoiler alert: He was wronged.
“If you’re going to talk betrayal, it’s only with (general manager) Rob (Pelinka),” said Johnson, who on April 9 abruptly resigned as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Johnson claimed he got permission from team owner Jeanie Buss to continue running his other business ventures while in the employ of the Lakers.
“Then I start hearing, you know, ‘Magic, you’re not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office.’ So people around the Laker office was telling me Rob was saying things — Rob Pelinka — and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back, that I wasn’t in the office enough and so on and on. Now it’s in the media and so on. And people gotta remember something, being in this business for over 40 years, I got allies, I got friends everywhere.”
The word “backstabbing” might have been thrown in there. And somewhere Paul Westhead cracks a thin smile.
The deal-breaker for Johnson was when he stated his intent to fire coach Luke Walton, and Buss wanted the decision made by committee.
“I said listen, we gotta get a better coach. I like him, he’s great, former Laker, the whole thing. So, the first day, ‘Well, let’s think about it.’ Second day, ‘OK, you can fire him.’ Then the next day, ‘No, we should try to work it out.’ So when we went back and forth like that, and then she brought (team COO) Tim Harris into the meeting, you know, some of the guys.
“When it’s not fun for me, when I think that I don’t have the decision-making power that I thought I had, then I gotta step aside.”
Dear Warriors fan: What’s almost as fun than being one win away from a fifth NBA Finals appearance? This — the Lakers hitting Chris Cohan-level dysfunction.
Back to the action. Johnson attempted to put together a midseason trade that would fetch Anthony Davis in return for an assortment pack of young, promising Laker players. Johnson said that then-New Orleans Pelicans GM Dell Demps leaked the names of the Lakers who would have been dealt for Davis, thereby poisoning the Lakers locker room.
Johnson did cop to one mistake. LeBron James, whom Johnson signed as a free agent last summer, said he would have appreciated a phone call ahead of Johnson’s departure.
“I love LeBron,” Johnson said. “I love his family. But sometimes as a man, you have to make decisions based on your well-being. And I made that decision.”
[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”]Coincidentally (and dysfunctionally) enough, Pelinka introduced new Lakers coach Frank Vogel Monday morning, and fielded questions about Johnson and his comments.
“He is an unbelievable person to work with,” Pelinka said. “He fills the room with joy and vision. It’s really saddening and disheartening to think he believes things are in this perception.”