The Lakers have lost 5-of-7 and looked pretty terrible in that stretch, with the second-worst offense in the NBA over those games scoring just at a point per possession.
Of course, the Lakers have been without LeBron James in those games (groin strain on Christmas Day), so it’s understandable. Take the best player off any team and it regresses.
That has not stopped the “Luke Walton can’t coach” crowd — which may or may not include one Magic Johnson — from piling on. But his job is not in any short-term danger, reports Sam Amick of The Athletic.
Yet even before the Lakers routed Dallas on Monday to improve to 22-19, when they had lost five of six games since losing James entering play, a source close to the situation said that there were no signs of imminent danger for the third-year coach.
Kobe Bryant also has Walton’s back.
The dynamic around Walton as the Laker coach is unusual. Let’s break it down in bullet points:
• Magic Johnson (and GM Rob Pelinka) did not hire Walton and the rumor is they would like their own guy in that chair. Magic reportedly is more interested in an older-school coach who pushes players hard, where Walton has a more modern style (coming out of Steve Kerr’s Warriors locker room).
• Laker owner Jeanie Buss pushed to hire Walton and is his biggest backer in the organization. Good person to have in your corner.
• Firing Walton now would be impulsive and wrong, sort of like when Sacramento fired Mike Malone years ago because they went on a losing streak when DeMarcus Cousins got sick (how’s Malone doing in Denver?). I hate to tell his critics this, but Walton can coach — this is a good defensive team in large part because of him. We can debate if he’s good at player development (Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram have not lived up to expectations, but is that on Walton?) but development is not the primary job anymore. Can Walton coach a team of stars that can win? He looked like he could in Golden State.
• Ultimately, LeBron could sway this conversation with his opinion. So far, he has stayed out of the discussion, and Walton has worked to build a relationship with Lebron.