Meet The Lakers' New General Manager, Longtime Agent Makes A Bold Career Move
March 16, 2017
Mitch Kupchak learned the General Manager business from Jerry West, then took over. He had good years but not many in his final ones with lowly Laker teams and now he’s been replaced. What about the new guy? First, remember Kupchak was a Laker player and then a general manager. It’s a huge difference that Rob Pelinka was an agent who had Kobe Bryant as a client and now he’s going to work for a team for the first time.
It’s a different world. Agents make friends and enemies. When they negotiate for their clients they try to make the best deal possible. After dealing with each other sometimes general managers form a dislike for the agent and aren’t interested in dealing with him again. So, there’s some concern around the NBA that Pelinka will have a problem. Will some general managers be inclined to not deal with him on trade possibilities? Some NBA people are regarding Pelinka’s presence as a gamble the Lakers are taking. They’re saying it might work and it might not work. But make no mistake about this. Pelinka is smart, shrewd and experienced in the NBA world that he has pursued since he graduated as a player at Michigan. He couldn’t have lasted as a successful agent for so many years without doing a lot right.
He has placed his clients on many NBA teams in the last 20 years so he’s dealt with a variety of general managers. Magic Johnson wants Pelinka. Jeanie Buss is comfortable with the choice, saying the Lakers have worked with Pelinka a lot over the years. I’ve talked to several NBA people about him, people who’d rather not be quoted. He gets high marks from several of them. They tell me he’s willing to take chances in contrast to Kupchak, who developed a reputation as being very conservative. When West was the Lakers’ general manager he moved way up in the draft by trading established NBA center Vlade Divac to get a chance to draft a high school phenom named Kobe Bryant. “Jerry saw greatness in Kobe that nobody else did,” said Magic Johnson.
Pelinka might do something drastic like that in contrast to Kupchak’s conservative ways. Keep in mind that Pelinka will have to maneuver through the new NBA rule that rewards elite free agents financially who stay with their teams. It doesn’t look promising that the Lakers can persuade great players to sacrifice millions to play here. But the Lakers hope Pelinka will make appealing deals. He was a sharpshooting guard at Michigan and by being a player he’s gained respect from some front office people. What risk are the Lakers taking? Spending more years without making the playoffs for one. But many fans will agree that it was time for a change. Maybe not such a bold change but a change.