LeBron James comes to Luke Walton’s defense, says injuries have made his job more “challenging”

LeBron James
Feb 10, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) and head coach Luke Walton talks during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from postseason contention on Friday night after losing to D’Angelo Russell and the Brooklyn Nets. It was the final step in finishing what has been a failure of a season after LeBron James agreed to sign a four-year contract with the franchise.

There are plenty of reasons behind the Lakers’ disappointing year. A significant and unpredictable one has been the myriad injuries affecting the team’s depth and rotations. After the game, James summarized that issue and came to the coaching staff’s defense regarding how they handled the rotations:

Most seem to believe that Luke Walton and his staff will be fired after the conclusion of the season. Many also believe that LeBron would be in favor of that, given several reports of his camp wanting to push the third-year coach out.

That’s what makes this quote significant, that James would go out of his way to say that Walton did as well as possible with the cards that he was dealt. To an extent, that’s true. James, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram played in only 23 games together, during which the team had a 15-8 record. They were on pace for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs before LeBron suffered a strained groin.

At the same time, Walton did not do himself or the team any favors. Some of his rotations and lineup choices have legitimately been eyebrow-raising even with the caveat that he was forced to play net negative players like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson because that’s what he had available.

Regardless of James finally coming to Walton’s defense, it seems pretty likely that the head coach will not make it past the summer.

Leave a Reply