LOS ANGELES (AP) — During his two-decade career representing Kobe Bryant and other prominent NBA players, Rob Pelinka developed an enormous respect for the Los Angeles Lakers, both as a team and a global phenomenon.
Pelinka is getting the chance to restore that tarnished brand as the Lakers’ new general manager, and he is approaching his new job with evangelical zeal.
“It didn’t feel like a decision,” Pelinka said Friday. “It felt like a true calling.”
Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson introduced Pelinka at a news conference, hiring Bryant’s longtime agent as his top deputy in the team’s new leadership regime. Both men spoke glowingly of a 16-time NBA champion franchise currently mired in the worst four-year stretch in team history.
Pelinka is recognized as a sharp negotiator on the other side of the NBA’s bargaining tables. In moving to the Lakers’ front office, he described his goals in terms far beyond dollars and cents.
“To put the Lakers back on the proper place of being the gold-standard franchise in all of sports for others to look at and try to emulate,” Pelinka said. “Because that’s what Dr. (Jerry) Buss did with this team, and what our calling is here. … We’re going to deliver on Jeanie’s challenge to us to make the Lakers the greatest sports franchise in the world. That will happen.”
Jeanie Buss fired her brother, Jim, and general manager Mitch Kupchak last month to clear the way for Johnson and Pelinka.
While the Hall of Fame point guard will be the Lakers’ frontman and big-picture leader, Pelinka will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day work of contract negotiations, talent scouting and salary cap management. Together, they’ll attempt to rebuild the Lakers, who are wrapping up what’s certain to be their fourth straight non-playoff season, a franchise record for futility.
DETROIT (AP) — On a milestone night for female boxers, Claressa Shields gave herself rave reviews.
Shields became the first woman to headline a fight card on premium cable, stopping Szilvia Szabados in the fourth round Friday in their fight for the NABF middleweight championship on Showtime. Referee Harvey Dock stopped the fight 1:30 into the fourth, after Shields had landed a strong left-handed punch to the head of Szabados.
“I put on a good show. I used some good technique. I wasn’t just out there brawling with her,” Shields said. “I showed my skill, I showed my power, and I showed how I box like Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis mixed together.”
Shields (2-0) controlled the fight from the outset in front of a boisterous crowd in her home state of Michigan. The two-time Olympic champion from Flint landed 95 punches to 11 by Szabados. When it came to power punches, the margin was 88-10.
Szabados (15-9) did well to avoid being knocked down. The Hungarian was still on her feet when the fight was stopped, and she shook her head a bit in apparent disbelief that it was over.
“I’m very sad and heartbroken right now because I only went four rounds and I could have kept going,” Szabados said.
Szabados said she’d have to live with the referee’s decision.
“Her hits were not painful,” Szabados said. “Her right hook got me a lot, I know. I could feel that one.”
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — For all that Dawn Staley has accomplished in her Hall-of-Fame career, she believes her latest achievement may have topped them all.
“It is basketball utopia for me,” Staley said Friday after being introduced as coach of the U.S. women’s national basketball team. “For me to sit here as coach of USA Basketball is surreal.”
And a long time coming.
She first began playing for USA Basketball in 1989. Staley has won three Olympic gold medals as a player — in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Games. She was an assistant coach on the 2008 and 2016 gold-medal winning U.S. teams.
Now, it’s Staley’s turn to call the shots.
“I didn’t see this moment ever happening because I just wanted to be part of one Olympic games,” Staley told the crowd of about 100 people that gathered at South Carolina’s football stadium about five miles from campus, including her Gamecocks players and five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards. “But dreams lead to other dreams.”
The dream will become a reality next year when she leads the U.S. in the FIBA World Cup in Spain. Should the U.S. qualify for the Olympics as expected, Staley will look to guide the Americans to a seventh consecutive gold at the Tokyo Games in 2020.