Lakers coach Luke Walton is more concerned about the distraction caused by LaVar Ball’s comments about him than his job security, sources told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Ball, in comments published by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, created a firestorm when Ball said Walton had lost the team and no one wanted to play for him. Ball had met with president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka in late November after the father of rookie guard Lonzo Ball publicly criticized Walton. The elder Ball promised to tone down his act, so both he and Johnson must be held accountable now, Shelburne opines, as Ball went back on his word and Johnson failed to immediately defend his coach. The club needs to take a harsher stance against LaVar Ball or risk being dragged into one controversy after another, Shelburne concludes.
In other developments regarding the Lakers/Ball situation:
- Rookie forward Kyle Kuzma gave a ringing endorsement of Walton, as Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times tweets: “Luke is my guy. I love playing for him. … We stand by Luke. I know the front office does.”
- The National Basketball Coaches Association issued a statement condemning Goodman’s report, calling it “reprehensible and insulting.” The coaches felt that ESPN should have done more research before publishing Ball’s comments. “The story failed to provide quotes or perspectives from any players, or from Lakers management, either named or unnamed, verifying the claims made in the story. The article lacks any of the basic fundamental benchmarks and standards of reliable journalism,” the statement read in part.
- Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy chimed in on the situation and ripped ESPN for reporting Ball’s comments as news. “I thought it was a cheap shot and I thought ESPN showed total disrespect,” Van Gundy told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press and other media members. “I don’t have a problem with LaVar Ball. He’s a grown man. He can voice whatever opinion he wants. I got a problem with ESPN deciding that’s a story.”
- ESPN had every right to publish Ball’s comments and the real burden falls on the Lakers, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman opines. The team brought on these issues by drafting Ball, knowing all about his attention-grabbing father. If Goodman hadn’t reported it, someone else would have, according to Tramel.
- Johnson, Pelinka and Walton must find a way to rebuild the franchise’s culture, according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. The team is hoping to land two high-level free agents but that won’t happen if it’s perceived to be in disarray, Mannix adds.