While the pressure and expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers intensified with the signing of LeBron James in free agency last summer, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Luke Walton each stressed the need for patience.
They reasoned that while the Lakers added a generational talent in James, the new-look roster would need time to develop chemistry. Johnson went so far as to say he informed Walton not to fret over a potential slow start to the season.
Yet, it took all of seven games for Johnson, who abruptly resigned Tuesday night, to admonish Walton over the team’s direction ad 2-5 start. That fueled speculation Walton’s time as head coach of the Lakers was running short.
As reports were running rampant, Johnson said he would not expect to fire Walton during the season and would not do so unless ‘something drastic’ happened. Johnson declined to elaborate on what would qualify as such.
Although he’s since stepped away as head of the Lakers front office, Johnson received blessing from Lakers owner Jeanie Buss to fire Walton at the conclusion of the season, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports:
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently gave Magic Johnson permission to fire coach Luke Walton at the conclusion of this season after being informed of Walton’s unwillingness to “bulk up” his coaching staff, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
As pressure was steadily mounting on Walton throughout the season, Buss remained his most-ardent supporter, both privately and publicly. Though, when recently questioned on Walton’s future, Buss deferred the decision to Johnson.
With the Hall-of-Fame point guard no longer in the picture, it’s unclear what that could mean for Walton’s future. Walton has two years remaining on his contract, with only the 2019-20 campaign guaranteed.
Walton and the Lakers coaching staff reportedly anticipated being let go prior to Johnson resigning.