There is no replacement for Magic Johnson.
That was undoubtedly true of Magic the player, a Hall of Fame legend who broke the mold. It is also true of Magic, the Laker icon. And Magic, the transformative Los Angeles businessman.
But Magic Johnson the President of Basketball Operations… the Lakers don’t think so. Signs have pointed this way for a while, and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN confirmed it, the Lakers are not replacing Magic.
Pelinka has been the guy with the hammer after Magic abruptly stepped down right before the end of the season. Pelinka led the coaching hire process, although he reportedly wanted Tyronn Lue, just on the Lakers’ terms. That didn’t work out. Since then, Pelinka has been leading the Lakers toward the draft, where they jumped up to the No. 4 pick.
No replacement for Magic also means Kurt Rambis will continue to have an incredible influence on the direction of the Lakers in his front office role. He reportedly had a lot of influence in the coaching search, and specifically the terms of the contract.
It also means owner Jeanie Buss is happy with the direction of things and doesn’t want change. She seems to prefer things in her comfort zone, and Pelinka with Rambis as an advisor — guys with long-time Lakers ties — fits that mold.
Will this work? Time will tell, but the way the coaching search was handled does not inspire confidence. Pelinka is not someone well-liked among other front office personnel around the league, but that doesn’t mean he can’t succeed with a series of smart moves. The task in front of him is clear but daunting: Land another superstar to go with LeBron James, whether via trade or free agency, then surround those stars with role players that fit new coach Frank Vogel’s system and can return the Lakers to contention.
If the Lakers stumble, or worse yet miss the playoffs again, there will be a reckoning in Lakers’ land.