LeBron James is not only one of the best, but one of the smartest playmakers the NBA has ever seen. Much like NFL coaches do when they have a Tom Brady/Payton Manning/Aaron Rodgers, multiple coaches for a long time have let LeBron dictate some of the offense based on what he sees. As they should.
Sometimes that gets read as LeBron ignoring a coach’s calls. Which is what happened recently, a scout told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst LeBron was blowing off coach Luke Walton’s calls, even though it has looked more like just Walton and LeBron figuring out how to work together.
Magic Johnson went on SiriusXM NBA Radio today with hosts Justin Termine and Eddie Johnson and pushed back on the idea his best player is ignoring his coach.
“This is all about making sure that they can say something on ESPN and everybody can just talk. We have a system the ball moves around, a lot of pick-and-roll plays. If you watch us play, the ball is not in LeBron James’ hands all of the time. It can’t be. Because you want to pass it around, you want to get into your pick-and-roll plays. But hey, we’re the Lakers, people are going to be talking about us. But that’s not how it’s going right now.”
The Lakers average 266.6 passes a game, fourth fewest in the NBA. The Lakers create 55 points a game on assists, which is middle of the pack in the NBA. The Lakers may not move the ball as much as Magic believes they do.
Also, since Rajon Rondo went down with a fractured hand, the ball has been in the hands of LeBron James a lot more.
That doesn’t mean this is a big deal, or that there’s friction between LeBron and Walton. Much like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and the rest of the Lakers are learning how to play with LeBron, Walton is learning how to coach LeBron. And, conversely, LeBron is understanding Walton better. Whether this is a long-term relationship that can work remains to be seen, but this situation seems very blown out of proportion.
It’s time for Lakers fans to get back to stressing about Ingram’s fit and what free agents they can land this summer. The important things.