LeBron James may be in “playoff mode” coming off the All-Star break, but it’s now likelier than ever that the Los Angeles Lakers will be missing their sixth straight postseason, even with the four-time MVP having long returned from a groin injury that kept him out of 18 games. Many fingers have been pointed in different directions, but a lot of those fingers appear to be pointing at Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
On Sunday, Marc Stein of The New York Times wrote a detailed piece about the Lakers’ ongoing struggles and about how James “can’t say that he wasn’t warned” that taking his talents to Los Angeles would lead to “one of the most trying” seasons in his 16-year NBA career. Stein posited that there are many people who could be blamed for the team being “fractured” at this point in the season, including James, team president Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka, and Walton.
Talking specifically about Walton, Stein wrote that it would be “nonsensical” to demand that he be fired as Lakers coach with less than 20 games remaining in the 2018-19 NBA season, as it would do little more than prove to the team’s fans that management is doing something to shake things up. He stressed, however, that Walton’s weeks as Lakers coach may still be numbered, based on what he’s heard from other NBA coaches.
“The prevailing assumption in league coaching circles remains that Walton will almost certainly be dismissed after the season, followed by the Lakers resuming their trade quest for [New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony] Davis. But denying Walton an opportunity to at finish out a season wrought with drama and distraction since James’s first dribble in purple and gold would be cruel and needless.”
Stein’s remarks about Walton’s allegedly tenuous job security came on the same day that rapper Snoop Dogg, who is one of the Lakers’ most prominent celebrity fans, uploaded a 44-second video in which he complained about the team’s current state of affairs. As seen on Sports Illustrated‘s Twitter account, Snoop’s profanity-laced rant saw him repeatedly say that “somebody’s gotta go,” before he clarified that a lot of people, “starting with the coach,” probably need to be replaced during the offseason.
If the Lakers fire Walton as many are expecting, the 38-year-old coach might not be out of a job for long, as NBC Sports predicted that he could get a lot of offers from NBA and NCAA teams alike. The outlet mentioned the Golden State Warriors as a potential landing spot, given how head coach Steve Kerr holds Walton in “extremely high regard.” As noted by The Mercury News, Walton had previously served as an assistant coach for the Warriors and had taken over as their interim head coach during the 2015-16 season, while Kerr was temporarily out due to complications from back surgery.