The arrival of LeBron James has changed life for Lakers coach Luke Walton in several ways, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic. After two relatively stress-free years at the helm, expectations just went way up in Los Angeles. Walton only has to look at Erik Spoelstra in Miami and David Blatt in Cleveland to see the pressure that comes to coaches who are suddenly paired with the NBA’s top talent.
And Walton has more than just the LeBron dynamic to be concerned with. The Lakers have a large collection of veterans on one-year contracts who will all want playing time to maximize their value for next summer. There’s a huge hole in the roster at center, along with a point guard battle between Rajon Rondo and Lonzo Ball. There’s also the watchful eye of management, where team president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka are also under pressure to produce a winner.
“That’s one of the reasons Luke is good,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who once employed Walton as his lead assistant. “He’s grown up in the NBA and he understands what a weird world we live in. The job changes almost daily depending on your circumstances.”
There’s more tonight from the Pacific Division:
- Walton plans to monitor James’ minutes to keep from burning out his new star, relays Dave McMenamin of ESPN. James played a league-high average of 36.9 minutes per game last season in Cleveland without taking a night off. Walton plans a much more relaxed approach to avoid tiring out James, who turns 34 in December. “We’ve got four years,” he said, referring to the length of James’ new contract.
- Stephen Curry tells Marcus Thompson of The Athletic he doesn’t believe he’ll be in the MVP race regardless of the numbers he posts. The Warriors guard already has a pair of MVP trophies, but he says “the narrative” doesn’t work in his favor. “I don’t care,” he said. “I just know the narrative isn’t there, so I would have to go above and beyond. So, it’s whatever. I’m blessed to have three rings. I’m good.”
- Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins has a new shoe deal with Puma after Nike refused to match his offer, tweets Nick DePaula of ESPN. Cousins becomes the top player associated with the Puma brand.