Magic Johnson’s voice carries serious weight. The fact that he’s around the team only part-time and spends most of his hours on his other business ventures doesn’t matter (GM Rob Pelinka runs basketball operations day-to-day). Magic is the franchise icon, the guy his name at the top of the flowchart, the guy who sat down with LeBron James at midnight on July 1 and sealed the deal — what he says goes.
And he reportedly made it clear to Luke Walton that the Lakers’ slow start — 2-5 when Magic spoke to Walton, 3-5 now — is not what’s expected. Even though even Magic himself said a slow start should be expected.
How does Walton feel about all this? He’s a pretty chill guy.
It’s a little harder when the distraction comes from inside the organization, but the point is the same for Walton.
Most observers expected the Lakers to start a little slow, LeBron James and a host of other veterans were thrown in with a young team that won 35 games last season and were still trying to figure things out before the roster upheaval. That screams “adjustment period” to anyone sane. Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, the two guys with the ball in their hands the most last season, are taking longer to figure out how to play with LeBron and the sacrifices involved. That should have been expected. That doesn’t excuse everything — for example the Lakers’ 23rd-ranked defense — but it does mean there needs to be patience.
Walton is likely safe for a while — owner Jeanie Buss brought him in and she’s in his corner. That’s a strong ally to have. If this team is still struggling when we all get serious about Christmas shopping (so, Dec. 24), then things will look and feel different. But right now it is too early, and Walton should just keep doing what he feels is best.
But he had to notice his seat just got a little warmer.