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Ex-Wolverine Pelinka will be Lakers' new GM

Mark Medina
Los Angeles Daily News
Rob Pelinka talks with Kobe Bryant during the NCAA men's basketball tournament West Regional final at Honda Center on March 26, 2016 in Anaheim, California.

For their next front office move, the Los Angeles Lakers plan to hire a man well known for his connection to Kobe Bryant.

But after spending countless years negotiating contracts for Bryant and other NBA players, longtime player agent Rob Pelinka will soon negotiate deals as the Lakers’ general manager. Although the Lakers have not announced the deal as of Tuesday night, they have reportedly narrowed in on what will be a multi-year deal.

Pelinka, 47, played college basketball at Michigan from 1988-89 through 1992-93. He played on the national championship team in 1989 and both Fab Five teams that made the Final Four, in 1992 and 1993.

Pelinka, who graduated from UM’s Ross School of Business and Michigan’s Law School, has been working for the Landmark Sports Agency in Los Angeles.

Magic Johnson initially handled trade inquiries once Lakers president Jeanie Buss named him the president of basketball operations on Tuesday morning. Johnson was involved with the Lakers’ trade that sent veteran guard Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for veteran forward Corey Brewer and a 2017 first-round pick. As of Tuesday afternoon, Johnson said he had taken calls with 13 other NBA general managers.

Generally speaking, Johnson downplayed concerns about hiring anyone that lacked front office experience, such as Pelinka. Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers had first studied under prominent sports agent Arn Tellem before becoming one of his associates.

The Vertical first reported about the Lakers’ intentions to hire Pelinka.

“It’s not important for them to have experience working in the front office. Those days are over with,” Johnson said to a small group of writers that regularly cover the Lakers. “The salary cap and new (collective bargaining agreement) has changed the game of basketball. You have to have people who understand the CBA, understand the salary cap and understand analytics.”

Pelinka represented a number of clients that played for the Lakers besides Bryant, including Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson and Derek Fisher. Pelinka also represents Houston guards James Harden and Eric Gordon, Houston forward Trevor Ariza and Golden State forward Andre Iguodala, among others. But Pelinka is most known for his involvement with Bryant, who may have a role with the Lakers’ front office.

Although he had not yet contacted Bryant as of Tuesday afternoon, Johnson said he would like for Bryant to have involvement with the organization. Bryant recently told ESPN Radio he is open toward helping behind the scenes, but he has remained consumed with his own company, Kobe, Inc., which specializes in digital storytelling.

“Whatever he wants to do; there is no certain role,” Johnson said of Bryant. “I’m not going to ask him to do anything. We want you back to be a part of this. We’ll have him in any kind of way we can get him. On the court with the players, coming in and whatever he wants to do. There is no certain role.”

Once Pelinka’s deal is finalized, he will take over the Lakers’ day-to-day operations that will include negotiating with other general managers and players’ agents. Johnson also outlined a collaborative effort with Lakers coach Luke Walton, Jeanie Buss, scout Ryan West, scout Jesse Buss and D-Fenders president Joey Buss.

“I’ll empower the general manager to make decisions,” Johnson said. “Anything to do with trades, draft, of course it’s going to end with me. Their input is going to be very important.”