Los Angeles Lakers hire former agent Rob Pelinka as new GM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Longtime agent Rob Pelinka was formally hired as the Los Angeles Lakers’ new general manager on Tuesday.

Pelinka got the job shortly after Lakers owner Jeanie Buss fired GM Mitch Kupchak and her brother, Jim, as the club’s top basketball executives last month. The team waited to announce the hiring until Pelinka complied with NBA rules against conflicts of interest, in part by transferring responsibility for his clients to other agents in his firm, Landmark Sports Agency.

Pelinka is the longtime agent of Kobe Bryant, who completed his Lakers career last season. Pelinka now will work for Magic Johnson, hired by Jeanie Buss last month to be the president of basketball operations for a 16-time NBA champion franchise currently wrapping up the worst four-year stretch in team history.

“I am beyond grateful to join the Lakers’ front office,” Pelinka said in a statement. “The Lakers are a gold standard for sports franchises in the world, so we all share a responsibility to pursue excellence in everything we do. Excellence is what the Lakers stands for, what Jeanie Buss and Earvin Johnson embody, and what coach (Luke) Walton demands from our players. That obsession for greatness is what will bring Lakers basketball back to a championship level. With Jeanie and Magic guiding the vision, I am thrilled to help architect the future. I am really excited to get to work.”

Johnson and Pelinka have no prior experience in their new jobs, but they will attempt to build a championship team upon an intriguing young core and one of the NBA’s top young coaches in Walton. The combination of Walton, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle hasn’t clicked yet: The Lakers (19-44) had lost seven straight games and 34 of 43 overall heading into Tuesday’s game at Dallas, including five straight out of the All-Star break.

Jeanie Buss and Johnson have given strong votes of confidence to first-year coach Walton during the transition.

“I know it’s been coming for some time now, but I’m excited to work with (Pelinka) and run ideas off him and spend some time in a room with him,” Walton said before the Lakers faced the Mavericks. “Guys that I’m very close with and respect their opinion say he’s very intelligent. He’s a hard worker. They feel like he did a great job for them, which is saying a lot.”

In Jeanie Buss’ vision, Johnson will be the Lakers’ big-picture leader and public face with final say on basketball decisions, while Pelinka will handle the mechanics of contracts and salary cap management.

“Rob’s knowledge of the NBA landscape and the CBA, as well as his relationships with GMs around the league, are invaluable,” Johnson said. “After running a successful sports agency, and as someone who truly understands the inner workings of salary caps and player negotiations, he will bring the additional skills and experience needed in the Lakers’ executive office. Rob is a winner, and the Lakers are fortunate to have him.”

The 47-year-old Pelinka joins Bob Myers, Arn Tellem, Jason Levien and Justin Zanik in the list of agents who moved into team executive positions in recent years.

“We have worked closely with Rob for many years and have firsthand experience with his knowledge of the league and the business of basketball,” Buss said in a statement. “In our recent discussions, it was clear that he also shares our goal of returning the Lakers to being an elite NBA franchise. Together with Earvin and Coach Walton, I believe we are in a great position to bring winning basketball back to the Lakers.”

Pelinka is a former University of Michigan basketball player who has been a prominent agent for the past two decades. He has represented many big-name players over the years, including Bryant, James Harden, Chris Bosh, Channing Frye, Andre Iguodala, Buddy Hield and Eric Gordon.

Pelinka, Kupchak and Jim Buss negotiated the two-year, $48.5 million contract under which Bryant finished his two-decade career with the Lakers last spring. The five-time champion was the NBA’s highest-paid player in his final two seasons.

“No one knows the business of basketball more than @robpelinka,” Bryant wrote on his Twitter account. “I wish him & the Lakers much success as they bring winning bball back to LA.”