Although expectations drastically changed for the Los Angeles Lakers after they signed LeBron James, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka stressed the need for patience.
Even with James at the helm and a talented and improving young core, the Lakers would need time to learn how to play with one another. In September, Johnson said the front office informed head coach Luke Walton not to worry if the team got off to a slow start.
Yet after going 0-2 on an early-season road trip that dropped the Lakers to 2-5, Johnson reportedly had a heated meeting with Walton and chastised him over the direction of the offense. The Lakers have since won seven of nine games.
One of those victories came Sunday night, with James scoring a season-high 51 points to lead the charge against the Miami Heat. His impressive performance not only came in front of familiar faces at American Airlines Arena, Johnson was also in attendance.
During an in-game interview, he noted the improvement the Lakers have made and expressed confidence they will continue to be an improved team, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“A lot of progress. We’re still trying to learn how to play with each other and trying to learn each guy, where he likes it, how he likes it. But what I’m liking is the defensive end. We’re coming together, we’re pressuring the ball. When we pressure the ball, we play well, we get in the passing lanes. It’s still a work in progress but I’m happy with where we are. I (still) want us to get better and better and better, and we will. I’ve always said it’s going to take us about a month and a half to really understand how to play with each other. So, it’s coming. Look for us after the first of the year. I think we’re going to be playing really good basketball.”
Coinciding with the Lakers’ recent stretch of improved play is the signing of Tyson Chandler. He’s helped stabilize the defense, and Pelinka intimated the signing stemmed from Walton asking for reinforcement in the paint during what turned into the much-publicized meeting with Johnson.
After a rocky stretch of days, matters appear to now be more calm in and around the Lakers organization. Johnson did commit to Walton remaining head coach so long as nothing ‘drastic,’ took place. Johnson said he was confident that would not be the case but also declined to specify what would qualify as such.