LeBron James made a strong statement in support of Luke Walton and the Lakers’ coaching staff following last night’s win in Portland, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Walton started to feel some heat after a 2-5 start and was “admonished” this week by team president Magic Johnson. The team has responded with two straight wins, and James left no doubt that he is in Walton’s corner.
“Listen, coaching staff put us in a position to win, and it’s up to us to go up and execute,” he told reporters after the game. “Luke can care less about what’s going on outside. We could as well. I’m the last person to ask about scrutiny or anything of that nature. So none of that stuff matters to me. The only thing that matters to me is what goes on inside this locker room, both home and away.”
James has clashed with coaches in both Miami and Cleveland and reportedly played a large role in getting David Blatt fired a year after he took the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. James’ endorsement of Walton should carry a lot of weight with the Lakers’ front office.
There’s more this morning out of Los Angeles:
- Johnson was less upset about the team’s won-loss record than what he perceived as a lack of identity at both ends of the court, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. A source tells Amick that Walton’s job wasn’t threatened and that Johnson hasn’t lost confidence in his coach, even though he was hired by the previous administration. Amick also notes that owner Jeanie Buss viewed frequent coaching changes as a weakness of the management team that was in place before Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka were hired.
- In that meeting, Walton appealed for another big man to back up starting center JaVale McGee, Amick adds in the same piece. That request appears to have been answered with the expected addition of Tyson Chandler, who is nearing a buyout with the Suns.
- Chandler may not be enough to solve the Lakers’ issues on defense when McGee is off the court, suggests Kevin Pelton of ESPN. Pelton runs the numbers on Chandler and finds that his ability to protect the rim has been on a steady decline over the past six seasons. He states that the Lakers might have been better off waiting for another center to become available, such as the Bulls’ Robin Lopez or the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon.