There’s a shift afoot in Southern California, and fortunately it’s not the tectonic plates. There’s a new regime in Lakerland, and Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are demanding that the NBA community take notice. Fresh off a win at Las Vegas summer league, the Lakers’ front office duo returned to Los Angeles to introduce their new shooting guard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They signed him to a one-year deal, but you wouldn’t know that if you just listened to Pelinka’s introductory remarks Tuesday:
Yes, that’s the Lakers GM, who spent the last decade representing august clients like Kobe Bryant and James Harden (among others), referencing Bible stories without a hint of irony, acting like he just signed a top-five all-time player. The reference was so earnest — following a self-aware comment about his tendency toward storytelling — that it felt like Ben Stiller had fed him a rejected script from a movie that never got made. Pelinka was a master agent and a veteran of the league, but every public address he has delivered in an official team capacity has been absolutely devoid of cynicism and jadedness. He is out here trying to turn basketball atheists into Lakers believers, and if you ask me, it’s working.
Yet recruiting new fans and acolytes is not enough for this guy. He’s also playing the long game, speaking in special-agent dialect:
His sermon concluded with a nod to KCP’s representatives, Rich Paul and Fara Leff, complimenting their understanding of how free agency and salary cap management works. Since they are agents, I hope they understand the two most critical aspects of their jobs, but Rob is eager to laud. After all, they also represent LeBron James, who is reportedly unhappy in Cleveland and has just one year left on his contract. Presumably Rob will want to work with these supposed free-agency experts again in the near future.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is now a part of the new culture that Magic and Rob cited repeatedly in the 25-minute press conference. And if their claims weren’t enough, Pelinka railed off nicknames for over half his roster just to prove it. They see Caldwell-Pope as a perfect 2-guard for an aspirational team trying to reinstate the glory of the previous decade and the previous millennium. KCP can contribute to that, but he has already done his work. Due to his presence, Rob Pelinka turned a random Tuesday in July into a religious holiday.