Already under a microscope because he was not hired by former Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, head coach Luke Walton faced heightened pressure this season with the arrival of LeBron James.
The idea that Johnson would fire Walton intensified after a heated early-season meeting. Though, Johnson indicated Walton would remain in place as head coach, barring “something drastic.” Johnson never outlined what would qualify as such.
The Lakers began to turn their season around, only to see it crumble after a rout of the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. A rash of injuries prevented them from gaining any traction, and Walton and the Lakers coaching staff reportedly anticipated being fired at the end of the season.
But Johnson abruptly stepping down has put a hold on that possibility. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings are expected to move forward with firing head coach Dave Joerger and would have interest in Walton, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times:
Amid reports that Kings coach Dave Joerger's job is in jeopardy, league sources say that Sacramento would have interest in Luke Walton should they decide to go through with a coaching change
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 11, 2019
Per Sam Amick of The Athletic, Walton would be at the top of the Kings’ wish list should he be available:
Can confirm @wojespn report that Kings GM Vlade Divac will fire coach Dave Joerger today. Lakers coach Luke Walton – if available – is the clear frontrunner here, per sources. Former New Orleans coach Monty Williams is also a strong candidate, as is Spurs asst. Ettore Messina.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) April 11, 2019
Considering Walton remains under contract with the Lakers, the Kings would need to receive permission to speak with him. Of course, they could just as easily wait for the Lakers to potentially relieve Walton of his duties.
The embattled head coach was also said to be a target of the Phoenix Suns if they are to part with Igor Kokoskov.
There hasn’t been any indication which way the Lakers may be leaning in the wake of Johnson’s departure. Walton and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka conducted exit interviews with players on Wednesday.