Back on Oct. 30, Magic Johnson chewed out Luke Walton for the Lakers’ 2-5 start.
Magic is a little like that boss we’ve all had who is around a handful of days a month but swoops in like he knows everything and offers edicts. Still, the rebuke reverberated. Magic and GM Rob Pelinka did not hire Walton, he’s not their guy, and the buzz around the league for a while has been that the front office would replace Walton with someone a little more old-school/hard-a** if they could (but owner Jeanie Buss stands in the way).
Walton pushed back on that idea in an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic.
“It’s been good,” he said of the relationship with Magic. “Honestly, it has. …Anytime I call him, he calls back within an hour or two, and we talk hoops. He wants to win, and I want to win. So as far as that (goes), we’re all trying to do the same thing, and I don’t feel like he’s trying to move me out of there.
“We definitely talked about (the Oct. 30 meeting). Me and him, one on one. We one hundred percent have moved forward from it. I don’t think it has changed anything. We still – it’s still the ultimate goal, and there’s time when I’ll call him or go sit in his office and pick his brain on what he’s seeing and what kind of suggestions he might have. But there’s no – what’s the word – discomfort. I don’t walk in there, and it’s like ‘F***, I’ve got to go talk to Magic.’ Like, I have no problem going in and sitting down with him and talking about what’s going on without thinking about that at all.”
Walton has the young Lakers defending well — eighth in the NBA on the season, fourth since LeBron James went down. The offense has been an issue without LeBron, but is that on Walton or the fact Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are not stepping up consistently?
Walton has done a good job as the Laker coach.
Which leads to the real question for anyone who wants Walton out: Who are you getting that’s better? There are maybe five coaches around the NBA who are difference makers, who can get a team wins just by their system and presence. The Lakers aren’t going to be able to hire Gregg Popovich or Rick Carlise or any of the others, and if they are not getting one of those handful of elite guys — who all already have jobs — then they are getting another guy who is good but goes as his talent goes. Which is Walton. Which again leads to the “why are you doing this?” question. It’s like Sacramento firing Mike Malone while DeMarcus Cousins was out and blaming the losing streak. (How is Malone doing in Denver, by the way?)
Of course, the real test for if Walton is back next season: What does LeBron think of him?
If you can answer that, then you know the future.