Bill Plaschke: The Lakers most improved player is ... Rob Pelinka? Give that man his flowers!

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

LOS ANGELES — All the wondrous transformations experienced by the Lakers last season were overshadowed by one massive makeover.

It awakened Los Angeles, rocked the NBA, and stunned a sports world that had long since hardened its opinion.

It didn't involve the players on a team that went from nearly worst to nearly first. It wasn't about the rookie coach who led them to within four wins of the NBA Finals.

It was, instead, about the embattled guy who brought them all together.

You know Rob Pelinka, right?

Well not anymore, you don't.


When he was hired six years ago with no previous front office experience, the Lakers vice president of basketball operations was viewed as a "friends and family" flunky who was employed only because he was Kobe Bryant's former agent.

Rival executives shunned him. Opinion makers — including this one — ridiculed him. Magic Johnson called him a backstabber. Even when the Lakers won the bubble championship in 2020, most of the credit for the building of that team was given to LeBron James and his associates.

Then, the first chance he got, Pelinka blew up that team and turned it into a drama-filled mess that was out of the playoffs two years later.

Entering last season, the Lakers were on the brink of irrelevance and Pelinka was on the verge of getting fired when something unexpectedly splendid happened.


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