Jeanie Buss offered up her first comments on the weirdness that enveloped her Los Angeles Lakers team this spring when Magic Johnson suddenly stepped down as the team’s president and ripped Rob Pelinka, the general manager who took over the team.
Buss, speaking on the red carpet before the NBA Awards Monday night in Santa Monica, admitted that Johnson’s abrupt resignation on April 9 caught her “off-guard” because he had told no one in the organization — including her. Among other things, Johnson accused Pelinka of being involved in “backstabbing and whispering” that led to his decision. Buss, the team’s controlling owner, didn’t specifically rebut the accusations, saying that the Lakers are “on the right path” now.
“There really wasn’t anything to say,” she said of her silence. “I think that when Magic decided that he didn’t want to be with the organization any longer in an official capacity, that took me off-guard. So I needed time to figure out what the process was going to be. That’s all. Just taking care of business and looking out after the organization.”
Still, she admitted that “it was a surprise” when Johnson quit the way he did. “I didn’t see that coming. But everything else has been pretty much as any organization moves forward and changes going into a new season,” she said. “So as much as has been speculated as to what the Lakers are doing, to me, we are in a really good place and we are following our path, and our plan, going into the next season.”
Johnson, one of the most popular Lakers ever over the course of his long career, curiously stressed when he quit that he and Buss were fine, that she was “my sister” despite informing reporters of his decision before his boss.
“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’s resignation sent shock waves through the team and the NBA, raising questions about how LeBron James felt. Since then, Pelinka, who denied Johnson’s accusations, has taken control and made a bold move with a blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis that bolstered the roster surrounding James. Buss rated her confidence level in Pelinka as “100 percent,” although she urged Lakers fans to “be patient,” and said the team didn’t need validation by the media.
“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.”
Another provocative issue Johnson raised was Buss’s relationship with Kurt and Linda Rambis and the couple’s influence with her.
“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.”
Buss was asked about Johnson’s comment that he might like to buy the team that has been in the Buss family since 1979.
“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?”
Read more from The Post: