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Buss has ‘100% confidence’ in Pelinka running Lakers

By Los Angeles Times (TNS) - Jun 25,2019 - Last updated at Jun 26,2019

Los Angeles Lakers’ General Manager Rob Pelinka (left) and former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson (AFP photo by Andrew D. Bernstein)

SANTA MONICA, California — Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss finally broke her silence about the state of the organisation, while walking the red carpet before the NBA Awards in Santa Monica.

In her first interview since Magic Johnson stepped down as the team president, Buss said his decision caught her off guard, but that their relationship will “be fine”. She also expressed support for embattled General Manager Rob Pelinka.

“I’ve always had confidence in Rob, whatever the speculation is out there,” Buss said. “We don’t need outside media to validate the things that we do. I’m very happy and I think we’re on the right path.”

Members of the media were not the only ones criticising Pelinka.

Johnson resigned on April 9, the date of the Lakers’ final game this past season. When he did it, Johnson alluded to “backstabbing and whispering” as part of why he was no longer happy doing the job. Johnson later conducted interviews on the same day the Lakers introduced new head coach Frank Vogel, and he identified Pelinka as the source of the backstabbing and whispering.

Pelinka has said Johnson’s accusations weren’t true. In Johnson’s absence, he was elevated to being the Lakers’ lead basketball executive.

“I have 100 per cent confidence in him in running his basketball operations,” Buss said. “He’s brought us a great new head coach in Frank Vogel, whose teams have had a lot of success in the play-offs and who have played consistently ranking high in defence, which means not only does he emphasise defence but the players buy into his defensive schemes.”

Johnson resigned without telling Buss or anyone else in the organisation. It was a move that rattled LeBron James and Buss alike.

“As surprising as it was, it kind of reminded me of back in 1981 when he asked to be traded after winning a championship with the Lakers because he wasn’t happy with the way the offense had changed,” Buss said. “That led us to getting Pat Riley as our head coach. He’s got good instincts. He’s gotta stay true to who he is and do what’s right for him. I wish I would’ve had a little bit more notice but I think we’re gonna be just fine.”

Johnson also said that he would be interested in buying the Lakers, a comment that caused some to wonder if he was questioning Buss’ stewardship.

“There’s probably like at least, I’ve had probably 20 to 30 people actually call and want to buy the team in the last five years but there’s probably, oh, a billion people who would like to own the Lakers, too,” Buss said. “That’s nothing new. It was no surprise. Who wouldn’t want to own the Lakers?”

Since Johnson’s departure, many have speculated about the rise in power of Kurt and Linda Rambis. Linda Rambis has been Buss’ confidante and co-worker for four decades. Kurt Rambis has had an on-again-off-again history with the organisation and was hired last summer as an adviser. He was a major part of the Lakers’ coaching search.

“They’ve been part of the Lakers, surrounding me,” Buss said. “Linda Rambis and I have worked the exact same way for the last 30 years. Nothing’s changed but for whatever reason there’s things people want to hear about. They’re part of our team and they do a fantastic job.”

There was one subject on which Buss could not comment due to NBA rules. The Lakers’ pending trade for Anthony Davis. League rules stipulate that teams cannot comment on it until it becomes official.

“I can’t say names,” Buss said. “… I think that there’s a lot of changes that have happened with the Lakers but all with the goal of getting back into the play-offs.”

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