While Luke Walton had shown promise and ability to help develop a young core in his first two seasons as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, a third year figured to offer vastly different challenges.
The signing of LeBron James to a four-year contract immediately vaulted the team from rebuilding to expected contender. Of course, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka, Walton and players alike all preached patience.
While the young core essentially remained intact, the Lakers added four veterans to the mix and that called for time to gel. Yet a mere seven games into the season, Johnson reportedly met with Walton to discuss the slow start.
In addition to signs of potential unrest at the top of the front office, veteran players on the Lakers roster reportedly are frustrated with Walton’s early lineup changes, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin:
One area of discontent among some Lakers’ veterans is Walton’s repeated shuffling of lineups.
The Lakers tarting lineup to begin the season consisted of Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James and JaVale McGee. Any traction the unit could have gained was interrupted when Ingram and Rondo received respective four- and three-game suspensions.
Then, for the fourth, fifth and sixth games of the season, Hart supplanted Caldwell-Pope in the lineup. After filling in while Ingram served his suspension, Kyle Kuzma remained a starter even when Ingram returned. The same has held true for Ball after Rondo returned.
The lineup of Ball, Ingram, James, Kuzma and McGee has started each of the past two games. Walton has generally been pleased with the group’s success but highlighted defense as an area still needing improvement.