Stephen A. Smith: Magic Johnson a Novice, Rob Pelinka 'Despised' Around NBA

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 4, 2019

EL SEGUNDO, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin 'Magic' Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka conduct a press conference at the Lakers UCLA Health Training Facility in El Segundo, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith called Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka "novices" and also said "people in the league" despise Pelinka on ESPN's First Take on Thursday:

"I don't think that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka as a combo is good enough, because they're both novices at this," Smith said. He continued:  

"And that's not an insult, that's just fact. Magic Johnson has never been a president of basketball operations until he got this job. Rob Pelinka has never been a general manager for a basketball team until he got this Lakers job."

The Johnson-Pelinka team took over franchise operations after general manager Mitch Kupchak was fired. The Lakers have not made the playoffs in six years and are wrapping up their sixth straight losing season despite the offseason addition of four-time NBA MVP LeBron James.

Injuries have played a large part, but so have questionable moves.

Namely, the Lakers let Julius Randle and Brook Lopez walk last offseason. Per Dave McMenamin of ESPN, the coaching staff wanted the former back, and this season has shown why both departures now look unfortunate.

Randle is averaging 21.3 points and 8.6 rebounds. Lopez is averaging 12.6 points and shooting a career-high 37.2 percent from the three-point line. Los Angeles, meanwhile, is ranked No. 29 in three-point percentage.

As far as NBA personnel disliking Pelinka, Smith said the following:

"There are people in the league who despise him to the point where I can't even throw aside the word hate.

"They don't talk about him glowingly, they have a real problem with him, they don't like him. In some instances, they've been highly reluctant to take his phone calls, which is why Magic had to be involved in terms of being on the phone, particularly when it came to the issue involving Anthony Davis and the Pelicans."

Smith did clarify that he liked Pelinka and had no personal issues with him. He also called Magic Johnson his "brother." However, it was not made clear who reportedly dislikes Pelinka or why people dislike him. 

What was clear is that the Pelicans and Lakers didn't seem to be on the same page during trade negotiations for Pels big man Anthony Davis, to the point that Johnson said New Orleans did not act in good faith.

Regardless of Johnson and Pelinka's experience or people's feelings about the general manager, the Lakers have a lot of work to do this offseason as they attempt to fix a franchise that has not won a playoff series since the 2011-12 season.