Magic Johnson has lifted the lid on his shock departure from the Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles (AFP) - Former Los Angeles Lakers executive Magic Johnson said Monday a breakdown in relations with the team’s general manager Rob Pelinka contributed to his shock exit from the NBA franchise.
Johnson stunned the NBA on April 9 after dramatically quitting from his post as president of basketball operations at the struggling former powerhouses.
The move caught the team’s ownership and star player LeBron James by surprise, with Johnson giving no clue beforehand that he planned to leave.
On Monday, Johnson told ESPN he had stepped down because of his fractured relationship with Pelinka, accusing the Lakers GM of undermining him.
“I wasn’t having fun coming to work anymore,” the Lakers legend told ESPN’s First Take. “Especially when I gotta work beside [Pelinka], knowing that you want my position.”
Johnson said he had grown increasingly unhappy after being made aware of a whispering campaign he believes Pelinka orchestrated.
“I start hearing ‘Magic you’re not working hard enough, Magic is not in the office,’ so people around the Laker office was telling me Rob was saying things,” Johnson said.
“And I didn’t like those things being said behind my back, that I wasn’t in the office enough and so on. So I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball (operations) saying those things was being said to them outside of basketball. Not just in the Laker office, in the media,” he added.
Pelinka meanwhile denied Johnson’s comments later Monday, saying the allegations of backstabbing “simply aren’t true”.
“Truly, it’s saddening and disheartening to think he believes things are a misperception,” Pelinka said.
“I think all of us in life probably have been through things where maybe there are third-party whispers that aren’t true,” Pelinka added. “But I look forward to the opportunity to talk to (Johnson), sit down with him and work through them just like any relationship because they simply aren’t true.”
- Final straw -
Johnson earlier said the final straw came when Lakers owner Jeanie Buss did not back his request to fire head coach Luke Walton.
“We had three meetings,” he said. “I showed (Buss) the things he did well, and the things he didn’t do well. I said ‘We’ve gotta get a better coach’.”
Buss initially agreed to let Walton go, but then backtracked after a final meeting with Johnson and chief operating officer Tim Harris, who wanted Walton to stay.
“It’s time for me to go. I’ve got things being said behind my back, I don’t have the power to make decisions,” Johnson said.
“And I’d told them in the beginning when it’s not fun for me, and I don’t have the decision-making power, I’ve gotta step aside.”
Johnson’s decision to go public with his grievances is the latest drama to embroil the Lakers, whose season veered off the rails after star recruit James was injured in December. The Lakers missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
James later voiced dismay about Johnson’s failure to give him a forewarning before his abrupt departure.
“I respect LeBron for what he just said,” Johnson said on Monday.
“I love LeBron, I love his family … but sometimes as a man, you have to make decisions based on your well-being. And I made that decision.”