Luke Walton has been placed on the hot seat by fans and pundits as the Los Angeles Lakers have slumped without LeBron James on the court. While his job seems to be safe for the rest of the season, he has come under fire for many of his tactical decisions.
The major point of emphasis for many has been the Lakers’ poor offense, which has been the worst in the league in LeBron’s absence. Walton has struggled to implement an effective offensive scheme in his three seasons at the helm, leaving questions about his effectiveness as a head coach.
But if you ask Rajon Rondo, Walton is not to blame for the Lakers’ offensive struggles. In fact, the point guard told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Walton has done about as good of a job as could have been expected from him:
“He’s competitive as hell, but I think the way he’s handling this year, I don’t know if I could do a better job,” Rondo told ESPN. “It’s tough: He’s having to teach at the same time as he’s trying to get wins, managing egos, and dealing with vets and leadership.
“Someone asked me today if we have enough plays. The game isn’t so much about having plays; it’s about playing the right way. Because if you have plays, you’re easy to scout. If you don’t have plays and you put guys in certain structures that have the right skills and know how to play in the game, then you’re a lot tougher to defend.”
Rondo has a point but it doesn’t exactly absolve Walton of blame either. NBA teams don’t generally call plays very often, especially in the regular season. But the scheme they run directly influences how they play offensively. The Lakers have struggled to get good looks in the half-court and a lot of that blame goes on Walton. Players not knowing where to be to maximize their talents falls on the head coach, at least in part.
On the other hand, the Lakers are one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA, playing without their best player and another of their top playmakers. They were always going to struggle with so many injuries and suspensions leaving them shorthanded.
At the end of the day, we have enough evidence to show that Walton needs some help in that department. That doesn’t make him a bad coach. He clearly hasn’t lost the locker room as evidenced by how Rondo talks about him and he has done a phenomenal job of creating a strong defense out of a roster that did not appear to be fit to do that.
The Lakers just need to get him some help in the offseason, both on the staff and on the court, in order to truly be able to evaluate him as a coach.