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The Sports Report: Here's some advice for Jeanie Buss

The Sports Report: Here's some advice for Jeanie Buss
Jeanie Buss (Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Howdy everyone, my name is Houston Mitchell, proprietor of this here newsletter. Let’s get right to the news.

Lakers

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“When Jeanie Buss hired Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations for the Lakers two years ago, she didn’t view it as hiring a former player who had virtually no front-office experience. She was hiring a man she considers her brother. Magic was family.

“When Buss hired Rob Pelinka to serve as the club’s general manager, she didn’t see him as a player agent with no front-office experience. She saw him as the former agent of Kobe Bryant, and Kobe was family.

In the wake of Tuesday’s stunning exit by one man and the lingering failures of the other, it’s time somebody sits Buss down for a piece of family advice.

“As in, no more family.

“For the Lakers to rise from the most unsightly pile of rubble in franchise history and rebuild themselves into champions, the Buss has to stop here. The owner has to ignore allegiances, cut ties, and hire someone from beyond the Lakers family to return some semblance of sanity to the basketball operation.

“The most tight-knit outfit in pro sports needs an outsider. It needs a smart, inventive basketball mind not awed by the history of the place and is not beholden to anyone living there. Johnson actually gave Buss a gift by quitting, and she needs to use that gift to fill the staid basketball operations with new life.

“In a reference that all Los Angeles sports fans will understand, she needs go find her Andrew Friedman.

“It was never going to be Johnson, whose impromptu departure offered final proof he should not have been hired in the first place. He never had the focus, desire or even time to do the work required of today’s basketball bosses. He was always too distracted. His many businesses always beckoned. In the end, he was absent from work as much as his prize kid Lonzo Ball was missing from the court.

“It was always this way with Johnson. The job didn’t change him. He changed the job. Buss surely knew this when she hired him. But then again, she didn’t hire him after an exhaustive interview process involving a nationwide search. She hired him after a dinner. He was family.

“It also doesn’t seem possible that the answer can be Pelinka, who was hired despite a bad reputation among league front-office types after years of representing Bryant. Other general managers supposedly don’t like dealing with him. Agents supposedly don’t want to engage him. And then, in the most poignant quotes of his 45-minute goodbye Tuesday, Johnson leveled him.

“What I didn’t like was the backstabbing and whispering. … I didn’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on,’’ Johnson said, and it was understood he was talking about Pelinka.

“When asked about the front-office void left by his absence, he also pointed a finger at Pelinka by saying, “I think [Buss] is going to be hurt by not having somebody she can trust, that she knew that had her back.’’

“Finally, when asked whether he thought Pelinka was the right person for the job, he couldn’t really answer.

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“Do I think Rob in the right GM?’’ Johnson said. “That’s a decision Jeanie has to make. I worked well with him, I had no problems with him. Now they say he had some baggage. … I don’t know about that. A lot of my agent friends had called.’’

Read his entire column by clicking here.

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Reaction from some of the players to Magic’s resignation:

"I was a little bit shocked," Kyle Kuzma said. "Just like everybody else was. It wasn't predicted or nobody had that on their minds. But we say it all the time as players, it's no different from the front office or anybody. The one thing you can do in life is to do what's best for you, and for Magic, he's Magic Johnson. He doesn't need to prove to anybody anything and he just made the best decision for him and that's all you can ask."

"I walked in and thought LeBron had retired or something," Rajon Rondo quipped.

"We discussed it a little bit in the locker room, how we felt and stuff like that," Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. "But we really didn't discuss as much [during] the game and how it happened. So we really just let it sink in and today was when it really hit. That was really surprising that that happened. No one knew."

"In sports and basketball, you always preach family," Kuzma said. "Everybody is a family. … In a regular household family, things get tight and things are all positive, things are all negative sometimes. That's just how a family is. So, everybody on this roster is very cool with each other. Hung out and as the season progressed, guys got closer, obviously. …

"You're going to have that disconnect sometimes but, I can't say enough positive things about everybody in that locker room."

UCLA men’s basketball

Dylan Hernandez on UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero:

“The Bruins’ beaten-down fans have to be collectively gasping as they imagine the indignities to which Guerrero could subject them to next.

“While the personable Mick Cronin presented himself on Wednesday as a perfectly reasonable hire, the process of landing him was a public relations catastrophe that made UCLA’s athletic department a laughingstock and further reduced Guerrero’s already-diminished reputation.

“And UCLA is thinking of extending Guerrero’s contract?

“Asked why he should continue leading the university’s treasured athletic department, Guerrero replied, “I would say that not an ounce or an inch of my self-worth is dependent on a particular individual’s perception of me, of what I think, of what I do, or decisions that I make. I’m here to represent UCLA and [have] always been here to make decisions that I felt were in the best interests of [the] university, of coaches and our student-athletes. It’s never been about me. I mean, I understand that when you’re in a role like this, criticism comes with the territory and, frankly, in many respects, that’s a good thing because it shows that people care.”

“He won’t win over his detractors with non-answers like that.

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“UCLA’s gymnastics team has become a sensation. The baseball and softball teams are ranked No. 1 in the nation. But an athletic department of this stature is measured by the performances of its men’s basketball and football programs. The Bruins haven’t won a national championship in basketball in 24 years. They haven’t won a Rose Bowl in 33. Guerrero’s track record of coaching hires for those sports reads like a list of broken dreams.

“I will say that I do not regret any hire that I’ve made because I made those hires for the right reasons,” Guerrero said. “I’m not always happy about the outcomes of those hires, but the hires were made for the right reasons.”

“Right, like Steve Alford, who immediately became a subject of controversy over his defense of a player of his at Iowa who was accused of sexual assault and later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

“Looks as if someone attended Stan Kasten’s Tone Deaf School of Communications — or received lessons from Jeanie Buss on how to blame the media.

“While introducing Cronin, Guerrero tried to defend the train wreck of the coaching search by insinuating events didn’t unfold as reported.

“We made a decision … that we weren’t going to make a comment on the search and we held true to that, including correcting any false reports that were out there,” Guerrero said.

Ben Bolch, the Los Angeles Times’ UCLA beat writer who was on top of the story, chronicled the failed pursuits of John Calipari, Jamie Dixon and Rick Barnes.

“The reality is, when you do a search like this, you have multiple conversations going on with different folks because you never know how it’s going to wind up,” Guerrero said. “Things aren’t always black and white. Frankly, there are reports that were made that were not always accurate. But that happens.”

“So what was inaccurate?

“Guerrero wouldn’t say. How convenient.”

You can read the entire column by clicking here.

Clippers

Before their regular-season finale against Utah on Wednesday (a game the Clippers won, 143-137 in overtime), the Clippers learned they will open the postseason against two-time reigning NBA champion Golden State.

The matchup between the Western Conference’s first and eighth seeds was locked into place by virtue of victories by Oklahoma City and San Antonio.

The Thunder are the sixth seed and the Spurs the seventh.

The Clippers finished 1-3 against the Warriors this season, with their most recent matchup a 131-104 loss Sunday in Oakland.

It will mark the Clippers’ first playoff appearance since the 2016-17 season.

The Clippers open the playoffs Saturday at 5 p.m. at Golden St. ABC will televise the game.

My apologies

For focusing so heavily on the Lakers and UCLA yesterday and today, but Magic and the coaching search have been the top stories by far. We’ll start mixing it up again tomorrow.

Odds and Ends

Dodgers again struggle to score in third consecutive loss to the Cardinals…. Dodgers place Russell Martin on 10-day injured list with back injury…. The Masters’ cellphone ban is a tradition unlike any other: ‘Wonderful, isn’t it?’…. UCLA's Devon Bling sinks ace in Masters par-three tournament; Matt Wallace wins it…. Mike Trout is not in Angels lineup a day after groin injury…. Angels defeat the Brewers, 4-2…. Vasiliy Lomachenko returns to the ring but still is waiting for a worthy rival to emerge…. Jockeys’ Guild agrees to call off no-whip day at Santa Anita…. Sparks think they’ve found good fits in WNBA draft with Kalani Brown and Marina Mabrey…. U.S. men's soccer team draws challenging group for Gold Cup tournament.

Today’s local major sports schedule (all times Pacific)

Dodgers at St. Louis, 10:15 a.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570

Born on this date

1970: NHL player Trevor Linden

And finally

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me here. If you want to subscribe, click here.

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