Stephen A. Smith claims Jeanie Buss would’ve fired Rob Pelinka if he hadn’t turned Lakers season around at deadline

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith believes that Jeanie Buss would have fired Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka had he not turned things around at last season’s trade deadline.

In the 2022-23 season, Pelinka made some major moves, acquiring players like D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Mo Bamba and Rui Hachimura in multiple deals prior to the deadline.

Those moves helped propel the Lakers to the playoffs, and the team ultimately ended up making the Western Conference Finals.

“I’m telling you what I know,” Smith said. “If that trading deadline hadn’t happened when you acquired D’Angelo Russell and Vanderbilt – you got Hachimura before that – before you made the deal for them or what have you, Rob Pelinka would have been out.

“He’d have been done. I’m telling you – Jeanie Buss was gonna pull the plug. Rob Pelinka has done an outstanding job…since that time.”

Pelinka moved on from former MVP Russell Westbrook in the deal that brought in Russell, Vanderbilt and Beasley, a move that gave the team more depth and outside shooting on the roster.

Pelinka has followed up a terrific trade deadline last season by having a great offseason prior to the 2023-24 campaign kicking off.

Once the offseason began, the Lakers brought back key players such as Russell, Hachimura and Austin Reaves, as all were vital to the team’s success last season.

Pelinka also added talent in free agency, signing guard Gabe Vincent to a three-year deal to help replace the loss of Dennis Schroder, who signed with the Toronto Raptors.

The Lakers general manager also added depth on the wing and in the frontcourt by acquiring Jaxson Hayes, Christian Wood, Cam Reddish and Taurean Prince. The Lakers seem extremely equipped to handle an injury or two given the depth they now have on the roster.

Even with all of those moves, the Lakers’ success in the 2023-24 season is likely going to come down to the play – and health – of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Both players dealt with injuries last season, but the Lakers were able to get healthy enough at the right time to earn the No. 7 seed in the West. They then knocked off the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.

While Pelinka’s back may have been against the wall heading into last season’s trade deadline, he’s certainly shown off his decision-making abilities since then. That should buy him some more time as the Lakers general manager.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.