Although the Los Angeles Lakers’ recent slump has largely been blamed on the strained groin that has kept LeBron James out for the last 15 games, that hasn’t stopped rumors regarding coach Luke Walton’s job security from swirling. This includes speculation that there may be some people close to James who are hoping that the Lakers find someone else to take over as the team’s head coach.
The rumors were discussed on Friday on the Brian Windhorst & the Hoop Collective podcast, where ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan talked about the “tension” within the Lakers regarding their coaching situation. After bringing up how Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has been solid in her support for Walton, even after the arrival of team president Earvin “Magic” Johnson, MacMullan told Windhorst that James’s camp hasn’t been “too subtle” about their desire to see a coaching change take place. She added, however, that James himself doesn’t appear to be the source of the dissatisfaction with Walton’s coaching.
“Not LeBron, but all the people around LeBron, and they’ve made it known. I don’t think this a shock,” MacMullan continued, as quoted by Bleacher Report.
While LeBron James hasn’t made any negative public comments about Luke Walton and his coaching, this isn’t the first time reports have suggested Walton’s job security may be in jeopardy. As cited by Silver Screen and Roll, ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said in December that Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have been “hoping to get their own coach” at some point in the future, and might try to sell Buss on the idea of replacing Walton if the Lakers miss the playoffs or are mired in a long losing streak.
Furthermore, Wojnarowski noted that Johnson prefers a head coach in the mold of Pat Riley, the current Miami Heat team president who coached the championship-winning “Showtime” Lakers in the 1980s with Johnson as his superstar point guard.
“Magic’s view of a coach remains Pat Riley. The fiery, old-school (guy). That’s his view. Luke Walton doesn’t fit the mold of what he sees in a head coach.”
Despite the allegations that LeBron James’s camp wants the Los Angeles Lakers to replace Luke Walton with someone else, Bleacher Report pointed out how the team appeared to be making progress prior to James’s injury, compiling a 20-14 record and ranking in the upper half of the NBA in defensive efficiency. However, the publication agreed with MacMullan’s observation that there’s a chance the Lakers are dealing with some “internal issues,” given how they have since dropped to 25-24 and ninth place in the Western Conference, with their 5-10 run without James featuring losses against the New York Knicks (10-36) and Cleveland Cavaliers (9-40).