NEW YORK – The text messages and voicemails will soon flood Rob Pelinka’s inbox, as opposing NBA teams entertain and respond to the trade proposals the Lakers’ general manager has considered. The same thing will happen when Magic Johnson inquires about the Lakers’ rebuilding plan.
“We talk every morning. Then we work together all day, then we talk at night. I think our wives are going crazy,” Johnson said, laughing. “We watch games and we’re calling each other at halftime and in the middle (of the night).”
Johnson and Pelinka gained significant clarity for their rebuilding project when the Lakers landed the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night. Their next wave of brainstorming sessions will revolve around one pressing question. What will the Lakers do with the pick?
“First, we’ll work out the players and look at them,” Johnson said. “Then second, if there’s offers, we’ll weigh those and then I’ll make a decision and Rob and I will make a decision based on what’s best for the Laker organization — not short-term, but long-term.”
If they keep the pick, their decision likely centers on choosing between UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball or Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. The Boston Celtics have the No. 1 pick, and might well make the decision for the Lakers based on their selection. But if the Lakers could choose between the two, they offered no signals on which way they’re leaning.
Pelinka echoed Johnson’s recent sentiments that Ball’s vocal father, LaVar, would not deter them from handing Lonzo a purple and gold uniform if they thought he was the right fit.
“I was a basketball player and had a basketball dad,” said Pelinka, who played at the University of Michigan. “That’s part of the game. We’ll evaluate the player. We’re going to evaluate the players and who they are as players.”
Johnson noted he did not interview Ball at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, but plans to host him for a workout. But after meeting Fultz, Johnson described him as “a bright young man and very talented.” Johnson also said the Lakers plan to host Kansas small forward Josh Jackson for a workout, too.
Pelinka was uncertain when those workouts will take place since agents typically decide what’s best for their clients. But the Lakers have hosted several workouts for players they could consider with their late first-round pick (No. 28). The Lakers plan to host a workout for Kansas State senior forward Wesley Iwundu on June 12, according to a league source familiar with the situation.
“We want a competitive person who has also been a winner and who loves to compete and also understands they can be an excellent leader and team player,” Johnson said. “As you watch the playoffs, the teams that are left all are great teams that play well together.”
Pelinka added that the Lakers are looking for a player who “has versatility, is relentless and puts the team first.”