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October 11, 2020

Rob Pelinka

Los Angeles Lakers

Game 6: Postgame

Los Angeles Lakers - 106, Miami Heat - 93

Q. LeBron described that you told him you would do whatever it takes. With a franchise like the Lakers and a player like LeBron, that's a lot of pressure. What was your mindset going into building the team and how has it worked out to what you envisioned?

ROB PELINKA: I think the chance to build a team around one of the greatest players and leaders to ever play doesn't come along that often. So when he committed to us, it was a mutual trust. He showed trust in Jeanie and our front office to build a championship team, and once he put that trust in us, we had to deliver. There was no other option. And to be able to do that for him and for Anthony Davis as our captains is special.

But obviously you guys know, 2020 has been a tragic and very difficult year in many ways, with what happened on January 26, and I think Kobe and Gianna have guided this team the entire year. Kobe's voice is always in my head, always, every day, every minute. And I think to be able to -- for LeBron and Anthony and Coach Vogel and myself and for Jeanie, for us to be able to win this championship doesn't take away the sting of the loss, but what it does is it helps us add to their legacy. Kobe and Gianna's legacy will last forever. It will impact lives around the world in positive ways, and this championship and this Lakers championship in 2020 is partly to build on that legacy and honor them, and for us to be able to do that, the moment couldn't be any more special to do that for them.

Q. When you tried to find a coach for this team, the process was pretty public and up and down. How grateful are you it landed where it where it landed? And curious what you thought of how Frank managed these last three months here?

ROB PELINKA: We are so blessed and fortunate to be able to work with Frank Vogel. I think that he's an amazing collaborator, and I think in this era of basketball, you have to be able to collaborate; the head coach and the front office and your star players have to be a perfect triangle, and that's what we have. He's amazing at that. We're always giving each other input and listening to the voice of LeBron and Anthony, and it works.

I think the thing in studying him, and Kurt Rambis as a former coach of the Lakers was so helpful, but in studying Frank Vogel, we knew that the DNA of his teams was defense first. So when we built this roster, we really wanted to thread the needle of having guys that complemented AD and LeBron, not just from an offensive or shooting standpoint, but guys that knew how to defend. And if you look at our run in the bubble, Portland, Houston, Denver, and this great Miami team, the coaching staff had a different defensive attack and game plan for each of those series, and that takes some brilliance. Thankfully we had a versatile roster where we could go small and defend and win. We could big and strong with length and defend and win.

Rondo said yesterday in our team meeting, he said if we're going to win a championship, it has to be with defense, period. I think what we saw tonight was just a defensive showing of force tied together with a great game plan by Frank Vogel and his staff, and so we're honored to work with a basketball mind like his.

Q. Last June you pull off the trade to acquire Anthony, and you have LeBron and Anthony, and that's a heck of a head start but there's so much that needs to be done to get to this point. What was it like having the benefit of having those two great players, but then having the pressure of making sure you do whatever you do to surround them in the right way to get to here?

ROB PELINKA: You know, it's interesting, a lot of people think that trades are easy in the NBA. If you talk to any of the other 29 GMs, and there's some really, really good ones that I get to work alongside of. Any trade, especially for a superstar, is incredibly difficult and challenging, filled with intricacies and issues that the general public might never really understand. The dynamics of pulling off superstar trades are very, very challenging. They take weeks of hard work, and we were thankful when we acquired Anthony, but we knew the work wasn't done once we paired LeBron and AD together.

Last season, of course, we had cap space to add another max player, but we went into that with -- and Kobe was such a great mentor of me in terms of he always talked about his counters. You know, like in one year, maybe he would dominate with a fadeaway, and so then the next year he would come back and teams would say, hey, we have to take away his fadeaway, so he would work on his spin move and attack the rim. So it was always about counters.

In free agency last year, obviously we made a run to acquire a max free agent, but we had a counter, we had a backup plan and I knew we had a way to pivot and build a team with the other players we were able to acquire. It worked out. It worked out well obviously. But it was hard work. It wasn't just happenstance, oh, let's go sign a bunch of guys. Our front office, I can't take credit because we have a front office of a lot of incredibly hard-working, bright people in our basketball operations department, and it takes a village to have success, and all those people helping with that plan. It came together and here we are, we're the ultimate with a 2020 championship.

Q. I know it's a collective effort, but for you personally, if you go back to the AD trade and then you go to the stuff with Magic that was challenging for everybody, and then you took some real arrows along the way. The word "redemption" is probably way too strong, but going from that challenging time to the top of the NBA mountain, what does it feel like?

ROB PELINKA: I still have such gratitude for the two seasons I got to work with Earvin, and he's definitely a part of tonight with his vision and working side by side. He's an unbelievable person, and we have a great, incredibly strong relationship. He was one of the first calls tonight. Had a great talk with him.

But I think what I have learned in life is the hard times or the trials is when you grow, and you turn to your faith, you turn to your family, your loved ones, and more than anything else, I think the lesson that all of us on the inside know is you've got to just be about the work. You can't really get caught up in the noise.

When I took this job, I promised my wife, Kris, I said -- and Kobe gave me this advice, but it was: I'm not going to get caught up in the praise, because if you do that, you get prideful and big-headed and arrogant, but I'm also not going to get caught up in the criticism because then you'll doubt yourself. What I am going to get caught up in is the work, the hard work and the smart work. I'm just grateful that the work that we put in led to this, and all the other stuff really doesn't mean anything when you're holding the trophy.

Q. While you were taking the arrows, there was one person that stood by you, and that was Jeanie Buss. What did that mean to you, and what do you think people don't know that you would like people to know about who she is as an owner?

ROB PELINKA: We have the best owner in all of professional sports in Jeanie Buss. She's unbelievable. What she does is she leads with a really rare combination of courage and passion. I think our Lakers culture is centered on making sure that the players have everything they need to succeed, and it's a player-centric, player-first organization. That's our culture, and she sets that. Anyone that's come through the door to wear the purple and gold, she wants it to be their best experience in the NBA, and she wants to build strong players, but also strong people. Her commitment to that is unwavering.

She is an incredible friend. She's someone I go to for advice on not just how to build the team or how to work for the Lakers, but outside. She's an unbelievable person. She shared with me that when her father, Dr. Buss, moved the team West, his goal was to show that there could be a dominant NBA team in the West, and tonight we honor Dr. Buss with the ability to have as many trophies, we sit at the top with 17 titles. No NBA franchise has more titles than we do now and I know that makes Dr. Buss proud, and I know that Jeanie more than anything, loves to make her dad proud and the legacy he left for all of us.

She's just an unbelievable owner with an unbelievable commitment and we are incredibly grateful for her.

Q. What have you learned about LeBron in the two years through that partnership you've talked so much about, about him as a leader and what has he done that maybe we don't see that has helped make this a championship franchise again?

ROB PELINKA: He's one of the most genuine people I've ever met. He is compassionate. If you take this bubble experience, we have 17 players, he was committed to keeping all of those guys as a unit as one entire time, and the amount of energy he invests in bringing his teammates together and keeping them focused on a common goal is unbelievable.

But he's incredibly genuine, and I would say way more thoughtful than people might imagine. He has the ability to get Anthony Davis dialed into a game, but he also has the ability to talk to our team chef and make sure that she's doing a great job at her work. There's no task too big or too small that he's not involved with that he doesn't have his fingerprints on, and to see his partnership with Anthony Davis, we really wanted to make this season about our two captains.

I know it's been reported that -- I'm incredibly close with both of those guys in terms of the direction of our team and in terms of day-to-day decisions and personnel because they are both great basketball minds, and I think if you stay connected as an organization, and you don't make it about yourself or any one person, that's when greatness happens. LeBron has just been genuine from the time he signed until hoisting the trophy tonight. We're grateful to put him in that position to get his fourth championship.

Q. To your point about the tragedy with Kobe and Gianna and how that guided the entire year, how has that played out and what moments have stuck with you in those difficult eight and a half months?

ROB PELINKA: There would be times in my hotel room here, when you're in a bubble for a hundred days, it's tough. There would be times in the middle of the night, I would hear his voice: "Stay the course. Finish the task."

To be able to have a friend who changed my life, and helped me understand what greatness was about and sacrifice was about, there's not many greater gifts. To be able to share this moment right now, knowing that he and Gianna are looking down from heaven, and I know he's a proud friend, I know he is.

When I took the job, I remember he said, "Hey, I know what you did for me for 20 years." He said, "I'll give you two, three years, you'll fix this. You'll get the Lakers back on top." (Looking up) I guess you were right, man. You give me the energy to do it.

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