Earvin "Magic" Johnson put on his trademarks billion dollar smile and introduced new Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. "This is truly an exciting day that I can know that my running mate is here, that my partner is here, that we can move this franchise forward because it's going to take both of us and a lot of other people as well."
Kobe Bryant, Pelinka's former client tuned up for his first public appearance after walking off into the sunset with a 60-point fairy tale ending 11 months earlier. Before Pelinka even spoke, Johnson made sure to have the audience give Bryant a round of applause.
Johnson echoed the same criteria he described in the past with regards to Pelinka's relationships with other NBA General Managers, the former agent's familiarity with modern players and also the 47-year-old's deep understanding of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"He's teaching me the C.B.A. right now, as we speak," Johnson said before giving Pelinka the microphone.
"When Magic and I first got together and started talking about this with Jeanie's support, it became instantly clear that the vision was like completely minded," Pelinka stated. "We had a common faith. We felt like this was a calling to do something great and critically important."
Pelinka spoke about a "commitment to excellence" and the work required to lift the Lakers from the depths of the NBA back to the shining global symbol of basketball supremacy: "The Lakers' franchise serves really two things: it serves the players and it serves the fans."
The former agent shared a story of back in 2007 when the Bryant went on the radio and publicly demanded a trade. In the aftermath, former owner Dr. Jerry Buss invited Pelinka and Bryant to his home and the men spoke about their expectations, desires and frustrations. Pelinka said he remembers that moment because of how Buss treated people and how they solved the problem of the time. He saw that day embedded in his the fabric of the occasion and in the future of the franchise.
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"We have amazing leaders in this room, and we are all going to come together like Dr. Buss envisioned, and we're going to collaborate," Pelinka stated. "We're going to exchange ideas. People's opinions are going to be shared and respected."
Pelinka added, "Jeanie and Earvin are going to guide the vision, and we're all going to architect it."
Both Johnson and Pelinka spoke glowingly of Lakers coach Luke Walton, with Pelinka sharing his experience that Walton was incredibly well liked like few others in locker rooms around the NBA. General Managers and coaches work hand-in-hand, so the positive words from both Johnson and Pelinka confirmed that the organization had no intentions of changing Walton, who was hired by Jim Buss and former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.
"There could not be a better person to (coach the Lakers)," Pelinka said to Walton.
When the floor opened to questions, Pelinka spoke about the roster and his thoughts on the young core of the team.
"We have some really, really strong young talent on this team, but in terms of accountability, we're 29th out of 30 teams," Pelinka said. "We have to get better talent for Luke to coach."
The Lakers G.M. spoke about a strategy to develop players but also to bring in new talent, which is his job. Notably, Pelinka did not mention a trade but did talk about adding to the roster via free agency. Although the former University of Michigan Wolverine refused to set a timeline, he equated his approach to that of a chess game, meaning he had already begun planning on changes and moving pieces that should be factors down the road.
"We are implementing a plan as we speak and making moves to have the best talent in the league in this building, and it won't stop until we accomplish the goal, but to predict whether that's one year or five years is impossible," Pelinka said, while also building up that the Lakers' still had an intrinsic advantage due to the greats like Bryant and Johnson that had come before.
Pelinka also spoke about having worked with every single front office in the NBA and having had a player on every team at some point, which could be perceived as another major advantage. In addition, Johnson spoke about his new the two running mates going to the league office in New York to get an even better grasp of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"We have a championship coach, and Earvin and I are going to put in a championship accountability system," Pelinka said, highlighting all the success of the personnel up and down the organization.
Pelinka hinted that the Lakers would now be all on the same page, "The one thing that I've seen with the great organizations that have had success recently is that the coach and the general manager and the president, the basketball operations folks, have to be in lock step and have to be collaborating and sharing."
"I've had too many sleepless nights and hours. I've been cursing at the TV, and I don't normally do that," Johnson said he shared the frustrations of the fan base because he was part of that upset fan base.
The President of Basketball Operations concluded, "We're going to win back the fans eventually. We're going to build this thing right."