Basketball

Magic Johnson denies mistreating Lakers employees

Reacting to an ESPN report yesterday that described a toxic culture in the Los Angeles Lakers' front office, Magic Johnson denied mistreating any employees during his stint as team president of operations that ended last month.

"I've been in business 35 years," Johnson said in an ESPN television interview.

"I've had partnerships with some of the biggest companies, Fortune 500 companies, in the country. Now, I've never sat in (a human resources) person's office in 35 years. Two years with the Lakers, no HR appearance. ...

"Do you think (Lakers' owner) Jeanie Buss would allow me to abuse the employees? If that were the case, she would have called me in... It never happened.

"I'm a person who brings everybody together, uplift the employees. I've never abused an employee and I never will. That's not what I'm about."

Johnson expressed frustration that he wasn't given full authority to hire his own employees when he joined the Lakers' front office in February 2017. Instead, he was hired alongside new general manager Rob Pelinka.

The ESPN report claimed Johnson and Pelinka were often working unilaterally, including on potential trades and in free agency.

"Rob and I, when we were there, we worked well together," Johnson said.

"But, the little things that were going on behind the scenes, that bothered me. ...

"I would have hired my own people at the beginning. The one thing I didn't get to do was hire everybody that I wanted.

"Rob and I got put together. I inherited (Lakers coach) Luke Walton. (If I had a chance) to hire my own people, then you can judge me. You can judge me by trades I made."

ACCOUNTABLE

Johnson added: "Did I do some things wrong? Of course. And I admitted those things. I'm not a guy who's going to run from the truth.

"I'll also tell you what I didn't do... Nobody's ever called me and said, 'Magic mistreated an employee'. Ever.

"Now, a lot of Laker employees didn't like that I held them accountable. That's what my job was. Did I have to fire some people? Yes, because we had to bring about change and get better. I'll say this right now: The Lakers got a great staff.

"What's got to happen now is we got to get the news out. I'm really upset that I'm here talking about that." - REUTERS

Basketball