Several manifested during the 2018 draft.
The Lakers had two war rooms – one for Johnson and Pelinka, one for other executives and scouts involved in the process – according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. The other staffers reportedly thought Villanova’s Omari Spellman was the highest-ranking player remaining on the Lakers’ draft board at No. 25, so they were shocked to watch on television as the Lakers selected Michigan’s Moritz Wagner
Later, Pelinka told staffers he had heard negatives about Spellman and that he had discussed the issues with Lakers forward Josh Hart, who had played at Villanova before Spellman. Hart, he said, agreed there were concerns. Staffers were taken aback, and some said it represented another instance of a unilateral decision being made by Pelinka or Johnson without the involvement of key figures who would normally be central to the decision. “For him to covertly go to a player and go behind everybody’s else’s back, that’s the problem,” one coaching staff member said.
It also represented what multiple basketball operations staffers said was one of several instances in which Pelinka was quick to say that others — such as agents or players — were at least partly if not wholly responsible for certain decisions, which staffers believe was Pelinka’s way of deflecting blame and from taking ownership or responsibility.
Some staffers have even sought out those whom Pelinka has said he has spoken with, just to confirm whether such conversations took place. In this instance, a source close to Hart said the two spoke briefly, for less than a minute, and Hart offered that Spellman had a great work ethic, but he was concerned about his fitness.
By this account, Hart did nothing wrong. Spellman redshirted during Hart’s final season at Villanova. So, Hart was worth asking for intel. If anything, his positive review of Spellman’s work ethic should have improved Spellman’s standing. Stating concerns about Spellman’s fitness was hardly sharing inside information. We could all see that.
The real issue was Lakers management’s absurd handling of the situation.
It’s wild they had two separate war rooms. It’s wild they deviated from their draft board. It’s wild they pinned it on Hart.
It’d be difficult to design a setup to breed more distrust.
Not that Pelinka needed to make the extra effort. The craziest part of this story is that Lakers staffers heard so many cockamamie stories from Pelinka, the employees made a habit of trying to verify them.
And now Pelinka is in charge!
Whether he’s a pathological liar or just presented as one by bitter anonymous sources, Pelinka clearly has many relationships to mend. Maybe including with Hart.