Prior to the Lakers‘ win over Dallas on Wednesday, team president Magic Johnson “admonished” head coach Luke Walton for the team’s slow start, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. According to ESPN’s report, the meeting elevated the sense within the organization that Walton is facing “intense and immediate pressure” to improve upon L.A.’s 3-5 record.
Before the regular season began, Johnson stressed in public comments that the new-look Lakers would require patience while they found their footing. However, sources tell Wojnarowski and McMenamin that the team president has a reputation within the organization for an “often-time volatile management style,” which includes his handling of Walton and the Lakers’ assistants.
As Johnson puts more pressure on Walton, the Lakers’ head coach continues to have the support of controlling owner Jeanie Buss and of the team’s new star, LeBron James. James has been both publicy and privately supportive of Walton, as the ESPN duo notes, defending the coach’s frequent lineup shuffling early in the season.
“I think Luke’s trying to figure out what works best,” James said. “We knew it was going to be like that from the summer when ‘Zo (Lonzo Ball) had the knee surgery. We knew we were going to have a lineup change there. Obviously, we had the unexpected one when we had the suspensions (to Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram), so we had a lineup change there… We’ll get to a point where we know how comfortable we need to be with different lineups.”
Wojnarowski and McMenamin indicate that Walton’s job security in Los Angeles will ultimately hinge on his ability to significantly improve upon the team’s 3-5 start, though it’s not clear how quickly Johnson expects to see a turnaround. In the short term, the team’s weekend schedule doesn’t bode well for a return to .500 — the Lakers will play in Portland on Saturday before returning home to host the Raptors on Sunday.