The Los Angeles Lakers’ tumultuous season has led to most people believing Luke Walton will be fired at its conclusion. While it did not happen during the year, the eventual decision has had an air of inevitability about it since LeBron James signed with the team.
The LeBron dynamic seemed to come to a climax around the trade deadline when Anthony Davis, who shares an agent with the Lakers star, put in a public request to be traded from the New Orleans Pelicans. According to Bill Oram of The Athletic, the Klutch Sports dynamic made Walton wary of losing his job but in a surprising turn, the potential trade could have been beneficial to the third-year head coach:
At one point, some in Walton’s circles feared Paul was trying to use the Davis situation to leverage a coaching change, with the premise being that his arrival would require a higher-caliber coach. But the Lakers received backchannel information that Davis liked Walton and that relieved pressure on the third-year head coach.
Davis’ affinity for Walton makes some sense. The star big man seems to have had a decent relationship with head coach Alvin Gentry. Gentry and Walton served as assistants under Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors for one year together. It is, however, interesting that the Lakers received this information given that Rich Paul is their direct line of information between the organization and Davis. While LeBron never outwardly expressed any criticisms for Walton, it never seemed as though there was much of a loving relationship, either, making this leak all the more curious.
Nevertheless, Davis did not become a Laker and Walton’s story may have already been written. According to Oram, these moments of Walton looking over his shoulder were common all season, including when Lakers adviser and guy who is somehow always around the team for who knows what reason, Kurt Rambis accompanied the team on an east coast road trip around the same time as the trade deadline.
No matter what you think of Walton’s coaching and whether he deserves another chance or not, it has become increasingly clear that the Lakers have put him in an unenviable position. Whether things like his relationship with the players or the respect of a potential superstar acquisition change what seems like an unstoppable trajectory for the head coach remains to be seen.