The Los Angeles Lakers have gotten off to a rocky start to start the 2018-19 season, sitting at 3-5 after eight games. Many have put the blame on head coach Luke Walton and his job has been deemed as being in jeopardy since LeBron James signed with the Lakers in July.
Despite publicly backing his head coach during the offseason, Magic Johnson met with Walton after a recent two-game losing streak and effectively warned Walton about the safety of his job, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
In a meeting on Tuesday following a winless two-game trip, Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson admonished coach Luke Walton for the team’s sluggish start to the season, league sources told ESPN.
Johnson’s cutting appraisal elevated an already acute awareness within the Lakers coaching staff that there are intense and immediate pressures on Walton to deliver the franchise a winner in short order.
Walton was hired by Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak before Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka replaced the longtime front office personnel so his position has always been a bit unsafe. But Magic and Pelinka have both been complimentary of the head coach since their arrival. Team owner Jeanie Buss has also repeatedly expressed her belief that Walton will be a longtime coach for the Lakers.
Despite speculation that James would seek a replacement for his new coach, the superstar forward has been supportive both publicly and privately, according to Woj.
The two-game losing streak in question featured narrow losses to the Spurs and Timberwolves by a combined eight points. The team’s previous three losses came by a combined 19 points. All five losses have been to teams who were in the playoffs last season while the three teams have come against non-playoff teams (although the Denver Nuggets were on the cusp).
Walton’s work has been divisive among many. He has generally received respect from his players and they have bought into his system. But the head coach’s lineups have left people scratching their heads at times. Nevertheless, that’s understandable for a team with so many new players, not to mention an injury to Lonzo Ball and suspensions to Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram.
While the 3-5 start is disappointing, the Lakers are playing at a level better than their record. The Lakers are tied for the 15th best net rating in the league with the Philadelphia 76ers who are 5-4, for example.
Walton has plenty of issues to work through but it seems hasty to put him on the hot seat only eight games into the season. According to Woj, Magic has earned a reputation for having a “volatile management style” throughout the Lakers organization and perhaps, this is just an extension of that and not a thorough indictment of Walton’s job as a head coach.