The Los Angeles Lakers’ organization saw a lot of drama Monday, including Russell Westbrook’s airing of grievances and the eventual firing of head coach Frank Vogel (half a day after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that move was coming, as per sources). But perhaps the strangest thing around the team Monday was general manager Rob Pelinka disputing the accuracy of Wojnarowski’s report and saying that Vogel actually learned of the firing in an in-person meeting Monday, rather than when reporters asked him about Wojnarowski’s report following the team’s final game of the 2021-22 season Sunday night. Here’s what Pelinka (seen above during an April 1 game against the New Orleans Pelicans) said there:
Rob Pelinka is not owning the fact that the Lakers humiliated Frank Vogel. He is dismissing initial report as unsourced and unsubstantiated. Says Vogel "factually heard about our decision in an in-person meeting this morning."
— Bill Oram (@billoram) April 11, 2022
Rob Pelinka on Frank Vogel learning of being fired in a tweet: "We don't respond to unsourced media reports. And in terms of the timing of that decision, we're going to keep that internal."
— Melissa Rohlin (@melissarohlin) April 11, 2022
But that’s all untrue. Wojnarowski’s report was not “unsourced”: it was not his own opinion, it was him citing sources. And it certainly worked out to be true. And yes, there can be cases where there’s a reporting error in stating a decision is done when it’s not, but there isn’t any evidence that that was the case here. The Lakers obviously did officially fire Vogel Monday, and Wojnarowski received enough reliable information from sources to relay that the move was done Sunday night.
And it’s worth noting that Wojnarowski has an incredibly strong record on these kinds of moves, and that he gets into far less trouble with poor reporting and opinion than his ESPN colleague Adam Schefter. Dismissing a Woj tweet that came with attribution to “sources” is incredibly poor form. This is not something put out there by Ballsack Sports, it’s something relayed by the top NBA insider. For Pelinka to dismiss that as “unsourced” is ridiculously arrogant, and quite dismissive of how that report came out and how it affected the post-game press conference for Vogel Sunday night.
The other thing to take issue with here is Pelinka’s particular verbiage. Yes, absolutely, executives should be ready to dispute reports if they’re not true. And there would even be a stronger potential case here for Pelinka if he made it a different way. If he stated “I am the person who made the call on firing Frank Vogel, and I didn’t make up my mind until 8 a.m. this morning,” there would at least be an argument there of his claims versus Woj’s sources. Instead, though, he disputed a sourced report as “unsourced.”
If Pelinka’s personal policy or the Lakers’ policy is to not respond to reports involving anonymous sources, that’s certainly a choice they can make (although not a good one, if the reporter relaying that information from anonymous sources is sufficiently trustworthy). But they should be very explicit in stating that their issue is with anonymous sources, rather than calling anonymous sourcing reports “unsourced.” That’s a vastly different category, and that claim is obviously false. And that’s an indication that media should be very wary of Pelinka going forward. If he’s willing to lie about something as easily disprovable as this, what’s he going to do when it comes to comments that aren’t as easy to refute?
[Melissa Rohlin on Twitter; photo from Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports]