The ESPN spotlight shined on a defensive Magic Johnson Tuesday night, as the former Lakers club president was left to answer for countless allegations laid out in an explosive exposé published on its website earlier that morning.
“Do you think (Lakers owner) Jeanie Buss will allow me to abuse employees? If that was the case she would have called me in. … It never happened,” Johnson said on the network for its scheduled NBA Finals coverage.
The report outlined complaints from several unnamed current and former employees, who said their jobs turned into an affliction once Johnson and current GM Rob Pelinka took over two seasons ago.
“A lot of Laker employees didn’t like that I held them accountable,” Johnson said. “That’s what my job was. Did I have to fire some people? Yes, because we had to bring about change and get better.”
ESPN also chronicled a culture in which Johnson and Pelinka purportedly executed franchise-altering decisions without consulting the rest of the front-office. The two were joined by a shotgun marriage orchestrated by Buss, with coach Luke Walton already on board by the time they took the reins.
Earlier this month, Johnson accused Pelinka of being a backstabber and added Tuesday he would have hired “his own people from the beginning” if he could start all over.
“Did I do some things wrong? Of course,” Johnson said. “And I admitted those things. I’m not a guy who’s going to run from the truth. I’m going to tell you the truth.”
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As Johnson continues to go scorched earth, the Lakers are left cleaning up the mess he left behind after abruptly quitting before the final game of the regular season.
Only Pelinka, the former agent of Kobe Bryant, and of course Buss survived, with the club mutually parting ways with Walton, who was replaced by Frank Vogel following a chaotic coaching search.