Expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers changed when they signed LeBron James but president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Luke Walton were among those in the organization to stress the need for patience.
Johnson and Pelinka explicitly stated that applied to Walton as well, as the third-year head coach was told not to be overly concerned if the team was slow out of the gate as they were working to develop chemistry.
However, that didn’t prevent Johnson from meeting with Walton a mere seven games into the season, when the Lakers were 2-5. Johnson reportedly criticized him for the lack of an offensive identity being in place.
The Lakers began to improve as the season wore on, but are now mired on a three-game losing streak and 1-6 stretch. With a myriad factors at play, the Lakers front office and management is not holding Walton solely accountable for the struggles, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne:
Yes, those were a bad couple of losses by the Lakers. But with LeBron + scorers out w/ injuries, from what I gather this isn’t falling on Luke Walton as far as management is concerned.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) January 6, 2019
Although Johnson was critical of Walton in their meeting, he later offered assurances he would remain the team’s head coach. It did include the caveat that something ‘drastic’ could change Walton’s job security, but declined to explain what that entailed.
While coaching strategy is not free of criticism, the Lakers’ slide very much is a result of LeBron James and Rajon Rondo being out with injuries. Moreover, Kyle Kuzma has missed the past two games after sitting out the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder because of a lower back contusion.
Johnson and Pelinka are believed to have a standing desire to replace Walton with a choice of their choosing, but Lakers owner Jeanie Buss remains a staunch supporter of Walton.
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