At the moment, things aren’t going as well as expected for the Los Angeles Lakers, who currently have a 3-5 record despite the strong play of four-time NBA MVP LeBron James. And with the Lakers having lost two straight games prior to their narrow 114-113 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, team president Earvin “Magic” Johnson reportedly “admonished” head coach Luke Walton during a team meeting earlier in the week.
Citing league sources, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin wrote that the meeting between Johnson and Walton took place on Tuesday, and saw the Lakers legend give a “cutting appraisal” of Walton’s performance thus far, seemingly blaming him for the team’s poorer than expected start to the 2018-19 season. According to ESPN, the meeting could be a sign that Walton’s job could be in danger if the Lakers do not improve on their subpar record sooner rather than later.
As further noted by Wojnarowski and McMenamin, Magic Johnson has been known behind the scenes for his “volatile” management style, which covers his dealings with Luke Walton and other members of the Lakers coaching staff. The tone he used when he met with Walton was described as “aggressive,” with news of the supposedly intense meeting spreading to other movers and shakers within the Lakers, including principal owner Jeanie Buss.
Despite the above claims, Johnson’s recent public comments suggested that he was willing to remain patient with Walton, even if the team starts the 2018-19 NBA season on a down note. According to ESPN, Johnson said in September that Walton will likely “struggle” due to the significant changes he and general manager Rob Pelinka made to the roster but added that he hopes the Lakers will prove to be a “really good team” at the end of the day.
Although the Los Angeles Lakers are presently 12th out of 15 teams in the NBA’s Western Conference, there have been mitigating factors that could explain the team’s slow start, ESPN wrote. Due to previous injuries, second-year point guard Lonzo Ball started the season in a reserve role with a minutes restriction. While it didn’t take long for Ball to regain his starting spot, the Lakers played without veteran point guard Rajon Rondo and young forward Brandon Ingram for three and four games respectively, as both were suspended for their involvement in a brawl against the Houston Rockets.
In an earlier op-ed that discussed the Los Angeles Lakers’ slow start and the expectations that Luke Walton could be fired because of it, USA Today’s Martin Rogers wrote that getting rid of Walton would be a “seriously bad” and premature for the team. He stressed that there are multiple other factors behind the subpar performances, such as the Lakers’ inability to “shoot or defend well enough” to keep up with most other teams in the traditionally powerful Western Conference.