While the arrival of LeBron James in free agency brought about excitement for the Los Angeles Lakers, it also heightened pressure on the franchise. Particularly for head coach Luke Walton, especially when taking into account James’ track record and reputation.
And though Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka emphasized they would be understanding of a slow start to the season, actions suggested otherwise. As the Lakers began 2-5, Johnson let into Walton during a contentious meeting.
That put the third-year head coach back on the hot seat even after Johnson attempted to voice his public support. Perhaps because it came with the caveat that Walton would remain head coach of the Lakers so long as nothing ‘drastic’ occurred. Johnson declined to elaborate on that.
With the Lakers skidding toward the end of a sixth consecutive season in which they will miss the playoffs, the general perception is Walton will get fired. If that’s the case, the Phoenix Suns could pursue him should they also make a coaching change, per Sean Deveney of Sporting News:
A source told Sporting News that Walton, who starred at Arizona, is seen as a top potential replacement for Kokoskov should the Suns make a move.
Amid ongoing speculation involving his job security and relationship with James, Walton’s ties to Arizona reportedly had him identified by his alma mater as a possible replacement for Sean Miller. Additionally, UCLA was said to have interest in Walton.
While Walton’s in-game decisions and lineups this season have earned him criticism, at times overblown and in other cases warranted, he’s shown flashes of developing as a head coach over the past three years. That seemingly has Walton in position to find another job if his tenure with the Lakers comes to a close next month.