With the Lakers off to a 2-5 start on the season, team president Magic Johnson reportedly had an “aggressive meeting” with head coach Luke Walton following the team’s 0-2 road trip according to ESPN.
“I feel like I’m coming down here to do my job and coach,” Walton said to reporters following the Lakers’ Friday practice. “And I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere, no.”
The ESPN report states that Johnson’s meeting “circulated to individuals throughout the organization, including to principal owner Jeanie Buss.”
Walton has pleaded for the front office, his players and fans to be patient and to trust the process. He has emphasized on multiple occasions the setbacks the team has endured most prominently the league suspensions of two starters, forward Brandon Ingram and guard Rajon Rondo.
This substantially affected the roster in addition to the restricted minutes played by guard Lonzo Ball to start the season due to injury. All of which has contributed to the team’s slow start due to an inability to get into rhythm and build chemistry between the band of new teammates.
Though Johnson was quoted back in September as stating there is no real concern if the team gets out to a slow start, it seems his tone has changed with each of the Lakers’ losses particularly those with single digit margins and where the games were lost in the last few minutes of play.
Much of the criticism of Walton has come from his lineup choices. The Lakers have employed the second highest lineup changes with 93 behind only the Atlanta Hawks per ESPN Stats & Information.
“Every time we go on a losing streak, there’s going to be stories out there and distractions out there,” Walton uttered. “We talked about that before the season even started…It’s our choice to either hang onto those or stay present and focus our energy and time on what we can do to get better.”
With the 3-5 start, the Lakers are off to the worst start for a team with James on the roster since his rookie season with the Cavaliers.
“If you are doing the same things over and over and over, and expecting the same result, then that’s insanity,” James commented after the Lakers suffered their second loss on the road at Minnesota during their two-game road skid. “You probably don’t want to be around when my patience runs out. I’m serious.”
James’ complicated history with former coaches like Erik Spoelstra in Miami and David Blatt, when he was in Cleveland, has created a reputation for James as a “coach killer.” However, as to Walton, James has yet to express discontentment about the Lakers’ coaching.
Walton seemingly still has the support of James and controlling owner Jeanie Buss on his side. He characterized his relationship with the front office as a great one and downplayed the meeting with Johnson as a part of their regular routine.
“I will tell you this, that Magic, myself, Jeanie, we are in constant communication, so this is no new, like all of the sudden there is some emergency meeting,” Walton told reporters.
When the Lakers signed three-time NBA champion James to the roster along with a host of decorated veterans who joined the pre-existing young core, the team expected that there would need to be a grace period.
Just ahead of the Lakers loss against the Raptors, Johnson confirmed head coach Luke Walton’s job was safe according to L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke, Brad Turner, and Tania Ganguili.
“[Luke] is going to finish the season, unless something drastic happens, which it won’t,” Johnson told the L.A. Times.
The team hired Walton to a five-year, $25 million to $30 million contract under the tutelage of Buss’s brother, Jim, and former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Eyes will be lasered in on Walton and Johnson over the course of the season, but for now the third year coach can exhale.