Magic Johnson speaks out about Lakers tenure, says he felt betrayed by GM Rob Pelinka

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What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt explains the variety of reasons that Magic Johnson made his decision to step away from the Lakers.
USA TODAY Sports

Magic Johnson said he abruptly left the Los Angeles Lakers last month in part because he felt betrayed by general manager Rob Pelinka.

In an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” on Monday, Johnson said he heard from both employees within the Lakers and business partners outside the organization that Pelinka was badmouthing Johnson, insinuating that he wasn’t working hard enough. And that irked Johnson, the former president of basketball operations, and helped lead to his sudden exit.

“I start hearing, ‘Magic, you’re not working enough. Magic’s not in the office,'” he said. “People around the Laker office were telling me Rob was saying things, Rob Pelinka, and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back.”

Pelinka said at a news conference later in the day that he has spoken with Johnson multiple times since the Hall of Fame point guard’s departure and denied badmouthing him behind his back.

“It’s saddening and disheartening to think he believes things are a misperception,” he said.

Beyond the Pelinka’s alleged betrayal, Johnson said he didn’t feel like he had the decision-making power that he needed within the organization, citing the increasing influences of Joey and Jesse Buss, the brothers of owner Jeanie Buss, as well as Lakers president of business operations Tim Harris.

LAKERS: Organization resembles clown car, not storied franchise

The last straw, he said, was when he asked Jeanie Buss for permission to fire coach Luke Walton and was given conflicting answers over the course of three different meetings.

“When I looked up and said, ‘Wait a minute, I only really answer to Jeanie Buss, now I got Ti

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