Luke Walton

Coaching Shakeup May Be On The Way

Coming off a rare season in which no coaches were fired, the NBA may be preparing for a shakeup that will affect a third of the league, writes Frank Isola of The New York Daily News.

Isola suggests as many as 10 teams could be looking at coaching changes at the end of the season, if not sooner. The actual number will depend on how things play out, but several more names may join David Fizdale of Memphis and Earl Watson of Phoenix as coaching casualties for 2017/18.

Both Los Angeles teams could be open to changes, with the Lakers far out of the playoff race at 16-29. The front office was slow to defend Luke Walton after recent derogatory comments by LaVar Ball, and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst recently suggested that hiring former Fizdale, a former assistant with the Heat, would give the organization a better shot at LeBron James. However, Walton still has an important ally in majority owner Jeanie Buss.

Across town, Doc Rivers is doing a remarkable job with a depleted roster, but he may not remain with the Clippers if they decide to rebuild by following through with rumored trades involving DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams. Rivers, who has one more year left on the extension he signed in 2014, was removed from his front office duties before the start of the season. Isola says Rivers may return to television if he leaves the Clippers, though he would become a candidate for possible openings in New York and Orlando.

There will be no shortage of prominent candidates if the Knicks decide to move on from Jeff Hornacek. Isola identifies ABC/ESPN analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy as potential replacements, along with former Pelicans coach and Knicks player Monty Williams, reigning G League Coach of the Year Jerry Stackhouse and Villanova coach Jay Wright, although there is speculation that Wright would only leave the college ranks to take the Sixers’ job.

Buss, Johnson Tweet Support For Luke Walton

Lakers majority owner Jeanie Buss and team president Magic Johnson offered public support to coach Luke Walton today for the first time since last week’s disparaging comments from LaVar Ball, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Buss went first, tweeting a photo of herself with GM Rob Pelinka and Walton, accompanied by the hashtag #InLukeWeTrust.

Johnson followed with a pair of tweets, reading “So proud of my players and Coach Walton for winning their 4th game in a row against the Mavericks” (Twitter link) and “Coach Luke Walton has the playing some of their best basketball of the season right now.” (Twitter link)

L.A. has won four straight games since Ball, the father of rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, claimed Walton has lost the team and that players no longer support him.

Rumors emerged Friday that the Lakers might have interest in former Grizzlies coach David Fizdale. Sources told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN that Buss was concerned about the situation and wanted to make her support for Walton clear.

“Jeanie has always been great,” Walton said. “There is no doubt that they support me. I haven’t seen the tweet, but again, I don’t have Twitter. But I know they support [me and the coaching staff].”

The front office tried to ignore LaVar Ball’s comments so it wouldn’t be seen as responding to the parent of a player. A Lakers source recently told Shelburne there’s “not even a conversation” about replacing Walton, who still has three seasons left on a five-year contract reportedly worth $25MM.

Lakers Have ‘Complete Faith’ In Luke Walton

Despite not publicly expressing support for their head coach in the wake of comments made by LaVar Ball this past weekend, the Lakers have “complete faith” in Luke Walton, a person with knowledge of the club’s thinking tells Sam Amick of USA Today. The same source tells Amick that the Lakers have no regrets about using the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft to select Lonzo Ball.

Speaking to ESPN in Lithuania, Lonzo Ball‘s father suggested over the weekend that Walton had lost his players’ confidence, but that assertion hasn’t been corroborated by any public or private sources in recent days. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported on Sunday that Walton’s job status was “not even a conversation” for the Lakers’ brass, and Amick’s report today further confirms that the franchise still envisions Walton as a potential long-term head coach.

According to Amick, the support for Walton goes all the way to ownership, though there has been silence from the front office and ownership since LaVar Ball spoke out. In a separate piece, Amick questions why the Lakers haven’t issued any public statements on the issue, noting that there would be a way to do it without mentioning LaVar or offending the Ball family.

With no comment from Magic Johnson or Rob Pelinka on the subject this week, rival coaches from around the NBA have jumped in to defend Walton and to rip ESPN for their handling of the elder Ball’s comments. Lakers players such as Kyle Kuzma have also endorsed Walton, with Kuzma telling reporters that he “loves” playing for the L.A. head coach.

We stand by Luke,” Kuzma said on Monday. “I know the front office does.”

Walton is in the second year of a five-year contract worth a reported $25MM.

Pacific Notes: Walton, Caldwell-Pope, West, Williams

The Lakers mishandled the latest controversy involving LaVar Ball, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. The outspoken father of rookie Lonzo Ball said over the weekend that coach Luke Walton has lost control of the team and that players no longer enjoy playing for him.

The comments drew a harsh reaction from other coaches such as the Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle, the Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy and the Warriors’ Steve Kerr, but Bontemps says Lakers management failed to speak out swiftly to defend Walton.

GM Rob Pelinka turned down two requests to talk to reporters at Sunday’s game, then team president Magic Johnson did the same at Monday’s practice. Bontemps notes this would have been a perfect opportunity to support Walton and send a message to LaVar Ball, but the team leaders remained silent.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is ready to move on after completing a 25-day jail sentence, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Caldwell-Pope was released for games and practices, but wasn’t permitted to leave California for road trips. “Paid my debts and all,” he said. “… Everything is done. Put that behind me. Moving forward, finish my season. Just happy to be home. Just a minor setback for me, [but there’s a] lot of things I gotta change. Lotta things I gotta improve on. Had a lot of time to think about it.”
  • Warriors forward David West heard a lot of second guessing when he turned down a $12.6MM option with the Pacers in 2015, but he tells Chris Hayes of ESPN he doesn’t think he would still be playing without that decision. He signed a $1.4MM contract with the Spurs that year and has taken similar deals with the Warriors the past two seasons. “I would have retired, man,” West said. “That would have been it, because I wanted to compete for a championship. I needed to experience that. So, if I played out my contract there, that would have been it. I was walking away. I wanted to feel like I was playing for something.”
  • After hitting a game-winning shot Monday, Clippers guard C.J. Williams has another important occasion coming up, notes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Playing on a two-way contract, Williams has used 40 of his 45 allowable days in the NBA. Injuries have forced Williams into the rotation, as he has started 12 games and is averaging nearly 20 minutes per night. To keep him, the Clippers will have to sign him to a regular contract or a 10-day deal by the end of the week. “We’re going to start a ‘GoFundMe Fund’ for C.J.,” coach Doc Rivers joked after the game. “We need some donations.”

Latest on Lakers-Ball Controversy

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.

Luke Walton Talks Criticism That He Lost Lakers’ Confidence

The Lakers enter play on Sunday losers of their last nine games and owners of the worst record in the Western Conference at 11-27. The outspoken LaVar Ball, father of Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, voiced his opinion recently that head coach Luke Walton has lost the team’s confidence and that he needs to be replaced.

Walton, who is in his second season as head coach, spoke to reporters, including Bill Oram of the Orange County Register (via Twitter), and addressed Ball’s comments. Despite Ball’s criticism, Walton said he knows the organization is on his side.

“I know they have my back,” Walton said. “My concerns are coaching our team, prepping for games, and working with what gives us the best chance to win. I know our front office and organization has my back and they will do whatever they have to do on their end of it. I’m not spending my time trying to figure out what they’re all doing about it. I just know they’ll take care of it.”

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets that Walton’s job status is “not even a conversation.”

This is not the first time Walton has had to address comments from his rookie’s father. In late November, Ball said that the Lakers do not know how to coach his son and that he is the only one who can do it effectively. While Walton called the situation “not ideal” for the team, he said it does not bother him as long as his relationship with the Lakers’ starting point guard is not impacted.

“I’m fine with it, it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “My only concern with any of it is for Zo. As long as Zo is fine with it and Zo can come in and play and it doesn’t affect mine and his relationship, then it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Shortly after Walton spoke, Lonzo addressed his father’s comments and disagreed with the assessment that Walton has lost the team’s confidence (via Bill Oram on Twitter). When asked about his relationship with the head coach and if he likes Walton, Lonzo said he would “play for anybody.”

Moving forward, the outspoken elder Ball figures to create more headlines with his vocal opinions of his son, the Lakers franchise, and the current head coach. Walton was asked if he’s worried that Ball’s criticisms may influence the Lakers’ decisions in the future.

“I would hope not,” Walton said.

Lakers Notes: Ball, Walton, Randle, Caldwell-Pope

Lonzo Ball‘s father is creating headlines in Los Angeles this morning with comments about Lakers coach Luke Walton, relays Jeff Goodman of ESPN. Lavar Ball claims Walton has lost control of the team and that Lakers players would like to see him replaced.

“You can see they’re not playing for Luke no more,” he said. “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him. … Nobody wants to play for him. I can see it. No high-fives when they come out of the game. People don’t know why they’re in the game. He’s too young. He’s too young. … He ain’t connecting with them anymore. You can look at every player, he’s not connecting with not one player.”

LaVar Ball also expressed confidence that LeBron James is heading to the Lakers next season, saying he wants to win a title in Los Angeles so he can surpass Michael Jordan.

There’s more news out of L.A.:

  • Ball’s comments came shortly after a report from Ohm Youngmisuk on ESPN Now that Walton believes he still has the support of Lakers management. Majority owner Jeanie Buss recently offered her backing on social media with an “InLukeWeTrust” hashtag, and Walton is confident that the organization is standing behind him during a nine-game losing streak. “As I preach to my players that control what you can control in life, that has to be my philosophy as a coach as well,” Walton said. “… [Team president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka] have been great, they have been supportive. They obviously understand where we are at as a team and what we are trying to do and what the big picture is… [Buss] has been incredible. I’ve talked with her a lot during the season. She has been around this game for a long time. She knows when to be supportive and she has been really great to work with.”
  • The chance to take a shot at James in free agency can’t come soon enough for the Lakers, writes Frank Isola of The New York Daily News, who says this season is unraveling both on the court and behind the scenes. Players expressed frustration with the play of Julius Randle during a recent team meeting, but he was inserted into the starting lineup for the following game, which Isola suggests was mandated by the front office in an effort to increase his trade value. He adds that such a move damages the coach’s standing in the locker room.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be released from a detention center Monday and will have his travel restrictions lifted, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN. Caldwell-Pope has been barred from leaving California while serving a 25-day sentence for a probation violation and has missed four of the team’s last five road games.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Warriors, Walton, Rivers

In Stephen Curry‘s absence, the Warriors did not stop winning as they won nine of the 11 games they played without their two-time Most Valuable Player. Despite their winning ways, the Warriors are a completely different team with a different mentality when Curry is healthy, Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post writes.

Without Curry, the Warriors still have shooting prowess of Klay Thompson, the versatility of Draymond Green, and the natural talent of Kevin Durant to guide the team. However, with Curry in the mix, he draws so much attention — mixed with his skill — that opposing teams struggle to adjust.

“He brings something different than anybody ever has, to be honest with you,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr tells Bontemps. “There are plenty of guys who dominate the game in different ways. You think of Shaq overpowering people, or Michael Jordans combination of power and skill and tenacity. But nobody has ever tilted the floor the way Steph does at such a deep range and with such incredible ballhandling skills.”

Curry scored 38 points with an NBA season-high 10 three’s made in his on-court return on Saturday. The 29-8 Warriors remain the top seed in the Western Conference and a healthy Curry only increases the odds that they will finish the regular season with the NBA’s best record for a fourth straight season.

Check out other Pacific Division news below:

  • There have been reports of the Warriors looking to trade one of their big men as JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulias names have come up in rumors. Danny Leroux of The Athletic (subscription required and recommended) examines how trading one of those players would impact the team’s salary cap.
  • The Lakers‘ losses have piled up in recent weeks but head coach Luke Walton is adamant about maintaining his decision-making and coaching style consistent, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register writes. “The guys know every decision I make might not always be right,” Walton said. “But every decision I make is answered with, ‘What do I believe is best for the team?’”
  • Austin Rivers‘ strained right Achilles tendon — while not season-ending — is only the latest blow to a Clippers team that has faced a drove of season-altering injuries, Elliot Teaford of the Orange County Register writes.


Pacific Notes: Ball, Walton, Teodosic, Iguodala, Jackson

Outside of a few standout performances, Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball‘s first professional season has been inconsistent at best. The Lakers’ season has mirrored Ball’s inconsistency as the team is 10-15, good for 10th place in the Western Conference. If the franchise and Ball want to achieve success, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant believes the 20-year-old point guard needs to improve now.

Speaking to Chris McGee on Spectrum SportsNet’s ‘Connected With’, Bryant said that Ball and the Lakers cannot wait and plan for several years to see improvements. Instead, Ball — and several of his young teammates — needs to take initiative and improve on his own accord.

“He needs to get better now,” Bryant said (via ForTheWin’s Nick Schwartz). “Kuzma, better now. Randle, better now. Players, you want that now. We never thought, ‘OK, we’re going to win four years from now. We really thought this is our year. We’re going to get this done. We’re going to push, push, push, push, push to get better now.’ And in the process of having that impatience, you develop. If you’re just patiently going about it, you’ll never get there. For players, it’s kind of patient impatience.”

In 25 games, Ball is averaging 8.6 PPG, 7.1 APG and 6.8 RPG. However, Ball has struggled on offense, shooting .321% from the field and .246% from beyond the arc.

Check out other news from around the Pacific Division:

  • In a well-written and well-crafted feature, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk dissected Luke Walton’s transition from player to assistant coach to head coach. Walton, currently in his second season as head coach of the Lakers, has learned under legend Phil Jackson, current Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, and his legendary father, Bill Walton. As Youngmisuk writes, all three men have shaped the way Walton conducts himself as head coach.
  • While Andre Iguodala is 33 years old, his ability to impact a game on both ends of the floor has made him invaluable to the Warriors. Head coach Steve Kerr said that, in particular, Iguodala’s defense reminds him of Scottie Pippen, Mark Medina of The Mercury News writes.
  • While Clippers rookie Milos Teodosic is close to returning from a plantar fascia injury to his left foot, the team is still unsure when he will be back, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports. “He’s close, I’ll say that,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “Watching him yesterday, I just didn’t think he was ready. But he’s close. It’s a tough one.”
  • Suns rookie Josh Jackson said his adjustment from college to the NBA has gone well, Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders writes.

Pacific Notes: Teodosic, Sampson, Walton

It may not be long before the Clippers see Milos Teodosic back in action, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. The rookie point guard has been sidelined with a plantar fascia injury since the second game of the season but is nearing his return.

There’s no set date for Teodosic at this point but he practiced without limitation on Friday. The 30-year-old international free agent practiced previously with both the big league club and its G League affiliate earlier this week.

He’s ready. He’s close,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “Milos will be playing in a couple of games, for sure. I just don’t want to say what game because I don’t know.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • There have been no shortage of proven winners for Lakers coach Luke Walton to take lessons from over the course of his NBA journey. Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN explores his path to where he is now.
  • The Kings have given JaKarr Sampson a chance to show what he’s capable of providing and the versatile 24-year-old hasn’t disappointed. “He has a body that we need – an athletic, 6-foot-8 guy who can play a couple of positions,” head coach Dave Joerger told Alex Kramers of the team’s official website. “It’s a little easier for him to stand in front of some versatile dudes, some drivers and some physical guys … He was ready for the moment and I think we’ll be seeing more of him.
  • There’s growing speculation that Nerlens Noel could end up in Los Angeles, Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes. The big man shares an agent with LeBron James who has been linked to the Lakers over the course of the past year.
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