Johnson accused Pelinka of "backstabbing" him during an appearance on ESPN's First Take on Monday.

By Michael Shapiro
May 20, 2019

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka responded to Magic Johnson's comments on ESPN's First Take from Monday morning and called the remarks "saddening and disheartening."

Johnson resigned as Los Angeles' President of Basketball Operations on April 9. He accused Pelinka of "backstabbing" during the pair's two-year partnership by citing their relationship as part of the reason Johnson left the franchise's front office. 

"If you want to elevate yourself, I'm all for that," Johnson said. "But there's a way to get that, and it's not talking about the person that's above you."

Pelinka gave his response on Monday afternoon as Los Angeles introduced Frank Vogel as head coach

"[Magic] is an unbelievable person to work with, he fills the room with joy and vision," Pelinka said. "Truly, it's saddening and disheartening to think he believes there's a misperception... I have talked to him several times since he decided to walk away, we've had many joy-filled conversations. In fact, two days ago we were talking reliving the combine and the fourth pick and the great future this franchise has."

"So these things are surprising to hear and disheartening, but I look forward to the opportunity to talk with him and sit down with him and work with him just like any relationship."

Pelinka wasn't the only member of Los Angeles' brass surprised by Johnson's comments. Magic's appearance on First Take was a "blindisde hit" to owner Jeanie Buss, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.

"Buss had questioned Johnson several times in the wake of his public resignation, asking him if there were any issues with Pelinka or anyone else in the organization," Shelburne wrote on Monday. "They spoke on the phone for hours. They went to a private dinner at Wally's in Beverly Hills on May 2... Johnson said nothing beyond what he'd said on April 9–that he didn't feel like he could be Magic in this role and wanted his freedom back."

The Lakers finished 10th in the Western Conference in 2018-19 at 37–45, missing the postseason for the sixth-straight year. 

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