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Pelinka’s biggest hurdle might have been getting past the criticism of Johnson, who accused him of backstabbing during an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” back in May. Before he joined the organization as Johnson’s general manager, he was best known as Kobe Bryant’s agent, and critics questioned whether Pelinka had the expertise necessary to run one of the NBA’s storied franchises.After Johnson turned on him, Pelinka had to walk a tricky tightrope of protecting himself while not taking a Laker legend head-on.“These things are surprising to hear and disheartening,” Pelinka said at the time. “But I look forward to the opportunity to talk with him and sit down with him and work through them just like in any relationship. They’re just simply not true. I stand beside him, I stand with him as a colleague, as a partner, I’ve always supported everything he’s done and will continue to.”Pelinka said in July that “anything short of a championship is not success,” and the Lakers have so far hewed to that standard while chasing down a possible No. 1 playoff seed this spring. As of Friday afternoon, they were four games ahead of their nearest Western competition.“Obviously he was under fire when I took the job,” Vogel said. “And a lot of it undeserved. I admire the fact that through all of that, he’s really just stuck to doing the work, committing to the work and making great decisions.”There are still challenges ahead that will define Pelinka’s tenure, namely retaining Davis when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. While he technically turned down a max contract extension earlier this week, it has long been Davis’ intention to enter free agency where he can earn a more lucrative contract, and most NBA observers believe the Lakers are the favorite to re-sign him.There’s one thing that now seems more certain than ever: When the Lakers meet with Davis this summer, Pelinka will be one of the people at the table. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error In the wake of Magic Johnson’s abrupt resignation last April, there were pressing questions in the ensuing power vacuum in the Lakers organization. The most urgent one might have been this:What happens to Rob Pelinka?In the nine months since, the Lakers general manager has consolidated power while hiring a head coach, orchestrating the Anthony Davis trade that his predecessor could not and assembling a veteran cast around LeBron James.On Friday afternoon, with the team leading the Western Conference with a 30-7 record, owner Jeanie Buss saw fit to raise Pelinka’s standing within the organization, promoting Pelinka to Vice President, Basketball Operations and General Manager, the Lakers announced. The promotion also comes with a contract extension, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to Southern California News Group. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersWhile he’ll serve mainly the same role he has since he joined the franchise in March 2017, the new title and extension are the strongest endorsements he’s received from ownership since he effectively replaced Johnson.“I’m extremely pleased with the work Rob has done in order to put this franchise in a position for success,” Buss said in a statement. “His strong leadership skills, as well as his commitment to building a winning culture, both on and off the court, have brought us one step closer to being a championship-caliber team and I look forward to our continued work together.”Buss has backed Pelinka before, notably saying in June at the red carpet of the NBA awards that she had “100 percent confidence” in him to run basketball operations. But a new contract conveys that confidence more powerfully than words ever could.Pelinka was charged with turning over a basketball team that won just 37 games last season. In May, he hired Coach Frank Vogel in an arduous coaching search, then had to gracefully sidestep scathing comments from Johnson on national TV the day Vogel was set to be introduced. In June, he finally swung for the fences with a trade for Davis that gave up a number of the Lakers’ young players and valued assets. In July, he assembled a team in the wake of an earth-shaking free agency decision by Kawhi Leonard, communicating with Davis and James by phone to get their input.The 2019-20 Lakers have Pelinka’s fingerprints all over them, and so far, it’s been a success. Only the Milwaukee Bucks (33-6), who mostly returned the core of a dominant team last year, have a better record near the season’s halfway point.