LaVar Ball saying he believes Luke Walton has lost control of the Lakers has generated plenty of fallout.
The Lakers put out word, anonymously, that Walton’s job is safe. Lonzo Ball drew scrutiny for not exactly endorsing his coach. Other Lakers were more full-throated in their support. Coaches outside Los Angeles took aim at ESPN.
One thing that didn’t happen: Lakers management publicly defending Walton.
That has people connecting dots to Lakers free agent target LeBron James then to fired Grizzlies coach David Fizdale, who was a Miami assistant while LeBron was there and who remains in LeBron’s good graces.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN, via The Rich Eisen Show:
Whatever you want to say about LaVar Ball, he has smoked the fact that the Lakers do not support Luke Walton. And that is now crystal clear. And there are now guys out there wondering openly to me – executives, coaching agents – “I wonder who the Lakers are going to hire as their next coach.” Because that has been revealed here, that they do not have unconditional support for Luke.
You want to know what people are saying behind the scenes? You want to know what they’re saying? What coach has LeBron tweeted about most recently?
Los Angeles native David Fizdale.
Now, again, this might not be true. The Lakers may intend to keep him. But the way the events have gone down, I’ve got executives in my ear. I’ve got agents in my ear saying, “Oh, yeah, they’re probably going to hire David Fizdale.” And, again, it may not be true. They may intend to keep Luke.
The usual question: Do these agents and executives know something we don’t, or are they just speculating based on publicly available information?
Discussing LeBron signing is Los Angeles is scintillating, no matter how unlikely it actually is. Coaching agents might be trying to create a wedge to get their clients into the Lakers job. Likewise, executives could be trying to cause disarray in a rival organization.
The Lakers are already having problems handling this awkward transition season, as they transparently set up to chase star free agents at the expense of their current players. Rumors about their coach’s job security won’t increase stability.
Which makes it all the more strange Lakers president Magic Johnson hasn’t publicly backed Walton since LaVar’s criticism. Could the agents and executives actually be right? Johnson inherited Walton (though Walton fits the profile of a coach Johnson would seemingly like – i.e., a former Lakers player). Even if the Lakers win out, Walton would have the worst record of any Lakers coach to get a third season.
The Lakers have been here before, trying to lure LeBron in 2014 by letting him pick his coach. It didn’t work then, and I doubt it’d work now.
But the question that will linger as long as Johnson remains silent publicly on Walton: Will the Lakers try again to sign LeBron by letting him pick his coach?