The Lakers Were Never Going to Give Luke Walton a Chance
Magic wants Walton gone.
About a month ago, I got myself a new rain jacket. It’s not gaudy and it doesn’t connect to WiFi or give me real-time traffic updates, but it’s a pretty solid rain jacket. And once this slick number was in my possession, I had a terrible thought.
I couldn’t wait for it to rain. Like, really hard.
What an awful impulse that was. Rain sucks, while the sun is amazing and cool. But here I was, impatient as hell, preferring to use this new product of mine for self-indulgent or even vain reasons rather than practical ones. And that’s exactly the same error Lakers president Magic Johnson is making with his increasingly embattled head coach, Luke Walton.
Sources: After a winless two-game trip, Magic Johnson’s meeting with Luke Walton on Tuesday reverberated throughout the Lakers organization. The pressure’s on the coach to win sooner than later. Story with @mcten: https://t.co/0ISPEuBZd8
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 2, 2018
Today’s ESPN report that the lovably affable Johnson’s tone was surprisingly dire during a recent meeting with Walton didn’t totally come out of nowhere. LeBron James is still LeBron James, but these Lakers have struggled out of the gate. Their blistering pace is a bridge to nowhere because they can’t hit threes. They only look like they can play defense if you compare them to the infuriating Chicago Bulls. Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram are gunning for MVP (most valuable puncher).
With so many young operators still coming into their own, this thing was always going to take time. LeBron knows that well. He keeps saying as much, anyway.
Luke Walton talks about meeting with Magic pic.twitter.com/PLkaSoHuTA
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) November 2, 2018
Magic, however, doesn’t feel the same. He’s already showing all the signs of panic that a smart organization needs to be able to avoid. But since he didn’t hire Walton — neither did front office colleague Rob Pelinka, for that matter — the writing is on the wall. He was always going to want his own guy, and Walton’s not it.
Pressure on Luke Walton was inevitable. Lakers—even with a transcendent player like LeBron—are not built to win in Year 1, not in an unforgiving conference. And remember: Magic/Pelinka regime didn’t hire him.
— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) November 2, 2018
It’s unfortunate that it’s so hard to conceive of LeBron ever playing for a coach as good as Erik Spoelstra ever again, but that’s quite likely to be the case (unless we wake up one day and realize he’s 45 years old and winning more rings playing center for the Spurs). The Lakers aren’t going to pry a Rick Carlisle away from Dallas. Terry Stotts has no reason to leave Portland. Mike Budenholzer could prove to be a revelation in Milwaukee. What’s Magic’s big masterstroke once he cans Walton, which he absolutely will do?
The fact is that Walton, in such a stacked Western Conference, never stood a chance. Is it Johnson and Pelinka’s right to make an eventual switch in favor of a guy they vetted and interviewed? Sure, business is business.
But the level of impatience we’re already seeing out of the Lakers’ front office doesn’t bode well for them going forward. And it may be that one day, we’ll realize that the problem was actually at the top.