Magic Johnson went scorched earth on the Lakers power structure and GM Rob Pelinka one month after abruptly retiring as team president

  • Magic Johnson gave a stunningly honest interview on ESPN’s “First Take” about why he resigned as president of the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • Johnson said Lakers GM Rob Pelinka was backstabbing him, trying to take his job, and telling people that Johnson wasn’t working hard enough.
  • Johnson described Pelinka’s acts as “betrayal” and said he was warned by other agents years ago not to trust Pelinka.
  • Johnson also criticized the structure within the Lakers, saying there are too many people that have influential voices around team owner Jeannie Buss.
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Just over one month after abruptly resigning as president of the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson appeared on ESPN’s “First Take” and criticized Lakers GM Rob Pelinka.

Johnson on Monday doubled-down on what he told reporters during the Lakers’ season finale which was that he was unhappy in his role as team president. He said on “First Take” that Pelinka was one of the reasons why.

“I started hearing, ‘Magic, you’re not working hard enough.’ ‘Magic’s not in the office,'” Johnson said. “So people around the Lakers office was telling me Rob was saying things, and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back.”

When Johnson resigned in April, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Johnson was seen as not putting in enough hours to be president of basketball operations.

Johnson said on Monday that he told Lakers owner Jeannie Buss before taking the job that he would continue running his other businesses, and thus, would have limited hours at times.

Read more: It’s becoming clear that nobody on the Lakers knew about or expected Magic Johnson’s abrupt resignation and few have seen anything like it

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka and owner Jeannie Buss.Allen Berezovsky/Getty ImagesWhen Johnson resigned in April, he told reporters that he grew tired of the “backstabbing” that came with the position. On Monday, he confirmed that it was Pelinka.

“Just Rob. Other people didn’t bother me,” Johnson said. He added: “What happened was, I wasn’t having fun coming to work any more, especially when I gotta work beside you, knowing you want my position.”

Johnson classified Pelinka’s behavior as “betrayal” on Monday.

Johnson said he was only planning on working as team president for three years and wanted to prepare Pelinka to take his job when he left. He said as the rumors about his work ethic began to circle back to him, he had second thoughts.

“When I took the job, you know how many agents called me and said, ‘You gotta watch out for him.’ I said, ‘Eh, I gotta give the guy a fair chance. I can’t listen to people,'” Johnson said.

“He was a hard worker, smart guy, but now you have that position, so I’m good with that.”

Johnson also criticized the Lakers power structure, saying there were too many voices of influence around Buss.

Johnson used the decision to fire former head coach Luke Walton as an example. Johnson said he wanted to fire Walton and made it known. He said he had three meetings with Buss to discuss it, and after the second meeting they decided to fire Walton. However, during the third meeting, Johnson said Buss told him they should find a way to work it out with Walton and repair the situation.

“When we went back and forth like that, and then she brought [Lakers COO Tim Harris] into the meeting, some other guys, and Tim wanted to keep him … I looked up and I said, wait a minute, I only really answer to Jeannie Buss. Now I got Tim involved. And I said, ‘It’s time for me to go.'”

Johnson described the set-up as having “too many people at the table.”

“I didn’t like that Tim Harris was too involved in basketball. He’s supposed to run the Lakers business. But he was trying to come over to our side,” Johnson said.

“Jeannie’s gotta stop that. You gotta stop having those voices. It’s too many people at the table. What happens is, everybody gets to share their opinion, and it’s so much information coming at [Buss] that when I say, ‘Hey we have to do this,’ she can’t make a decision because they’re saying, ‘No, don’t go the way Magic is going.'”

Read more: The Lakers’ offseason is turning into a disaster, and the franchise is nearing a tipping point

Despite Johnson’s criticisms of the structure, he also reiterated his belief that the team is headed in the right direction. He said the team has LeBron James, that he believes in the team’s young core of players, and that if they can land a top free agent this offseason, they will be back in the playoff hunt.

Johnson repeatedly said on “First Take” that he didn’t have any regrets about taking the job, how things went, or how he left. He also said he didn’t hold grudges against Pelinka or anyone else.

Johnson called himself a Laker for life. Surely, there will be more fallout for his shocking resignation and stunning honesty about things unraveled in LA.

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