The LA Lakers have been careful with how they have addressed LaVar Ball’s criticisms in public, but they have apparently been rather irked in private.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported on Thursday that the Lakers were “angry and disappointed” with LaVar, the boisterous father of star rookie Lonzo Ball, for recently saying that head coach Luke Walton had lost control of the team. President of basketball operations Magic Johnson was even said to have called an associate of LaVar’s and “strongly admonished” him over the remarks.
More from Shelburne:
[The Lakers] felt as though no other franchise would be as accommodating and supportive as they had been, only to be rewarded with a constant disrespect and drama. Or, as one official put it, “He [LaVar] reaches out with one hand and slaps us with the other.”
Indeed, LaVar has been a constant thorn in the Lakers’ side this season with his attacks on the team (and Walton in particular) for how they are coaching his son. The circus has died down a bit recently given that Lonzo has not played since Jan. 13 with a knee injury. But it has not done so entirely, as LaVar recently made more inflammatory remarks regarding the team.
Luke Walton was disappointed with his team’s effort in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, specifically saying that they got punked.
The Lakers, who were without Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, fell to the Grizzlies 123-114 as they shot below 40 percent for the game. Walton said after the contest that the Lakers were not physical enough in the game.
“I think the biggest (problem) is we weren’t physically, mentally ready to match what Memphis brought tonight,” Walton said. “And that’s disappointing. That has nothing to do with anything but the toughness to engage in a fight. We’ve been good at that, but for whatever reason, tonight we let them punk us all over the floor.”
Walton said he wasn’t sure if playing without Ball and Ingram impacted the team, but he hoped it didn’t. Walton expressed disappointment that they allowed Memphis to dominate the game and get to the line so much.
“We let them move the ball wherever they wanted,” he said. Walton also noted that they didn’t follow their scouting report, which said not to let the Grizzlies get to the free throw line too much. Memphis attempted 34 free throws, while the Lakers had 31.
The Lakers are now 15-28 after the loss, while the Grizzlies are 14-28.
- Luke Walton
It’s safe to say the Los Angeles Lakers’ braintrust are voicing their support for coach Luke Walton.
After what has been a tumultuous week for Walton, team president Magic Johnson became the latest in the organization to effusively praise his coach after the Lakers won 107-101 for their fourth consecutive victory.
So proud of my @Lakers players and Coach Walton for winning their 4th game in a row against the Mavericks.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 13, 2018
Coach Luke Walton has the @Lakers playing some of their best basketball of the season right now.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 13, 2018
Between this and a vote of confidence from owner Jeanie Buss earlier Saturday, it’s quite clear that there’s a concerted effort from Lakers executives to push back against reports that Walton’s job is not secure. It’s not a particularly combative response, but it’s a very clear statement that Walton isn’t going anywhere.
While it’s hardly as overt as it could have been, Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss made clear Saturday that the organization is still firmly on Luke Walton’s side.
With controversy still ongoing about LaVar Ball’s recent comments about the Lakers coach, Buss sent a Twitter message Saturday that included a picture of herself with Walton and GM Rob Pelinka. The caption offered a clear message: in Luke we trust.
— Jeanie Buss (@JeanieBuss) January 13, 2018
The timing of this probably isn’t a coincidence. Ball’s comments have sparked an uproar in NBA circles, and rumors that Walton’s job could be in jeopardy have followed. Buss could certainly be offering the dreaded vote of confidence, but she isn’t a constant chatterbox about team-related matters. The fact that she posted this is noteworthy.
Is LaVar Ball now about to speak a head coaching move into existence?
In an appearance Friday on “The Rich Eisen Show,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst dropped a bit of a bombshell about the LA Lakers and coach Luke Walton.
“Whatever you want to say about LaVar Ball, he has smoked out the fact that the Lakers do not support Luke Walton,” said Windhorst, according to Ryne Nelson of SLAMOnline. “And that is now crystal clear. And there are now guys out there wondering openly to me — executives, coaches, agents — who the Lakers are going to hire as their next coach. Because that has been revealed here –that they do not have unconditional support for Luke.
“What coach has LeBron [James] tweeted about most recently? What coach got fired this year and LeBron tweeted about it?” Windhorst continued when pressed on who the Lakers might hire if they were to fire Walton. “Los Angeles native David Fizdale … I got executives in my ear, I got agents in my ear, saying, ‘Oh yeah, they’re probably going to hire David Fizdale.'”
Since Ball went viral earlier this month with his controversial comments about Walton supposedly losing control of the team, the Lakers, both players and management, have indicated that the second-year coach still has their full support. But they remain a rotten 14-27 on the year, and questions about the 37-year-old’s Walton’s fit for this team at this point in time still persist.
It’s worth noting that Fizdale, who was fired by the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this season, coached James, presumably the Lakers’ top free agent target this summer, as an assistant in Miami for many years. Though both he and Walton have roughly the same amount of head coaching experience, Fizdale seems to be the more respected of the two right now. That could leave the Lakers with a decision to make, especially if their struggles under Walton continue.
LaVar Ball’s criticisms of Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton are doing nothing to permeate the team’s front office.
USA Today’s Sam Amick reported Wednesday that the organization has complete faith in Walton and his job is not in any danger.
Notably, the same Laker source told Amick that the organization has no regrets about selecting Lonzo Ball No. 2 overall in last June’s draft, despite the distractions that have been caused by his father.
Walton is only in the second year of a five-year contract and there is an understanding that the Lakers require a hefty rebuild, so ownership remains firmly behind their coach.
Ball’s comments have caused a lot of speculation, but there really doesn’t seem tobe anything to it. The bigger issue may be ensuring that Lonzo’s head is where it should be.
- Luke Walton
Los Angeles Lakers rookie forward Kyle Kuzma is standing up for his head coach in a big way amidst the team’s recent turmoil.
Speaking on Monday, Kuzma gave a strong defense of Lakers coach Luke Walton. Here is what he had to say, per Lakers Nation’s Matthew Moreno:
Kyle Kuzma gave Luke Walton a ringing endorsement. "Luke is my guy, I love playing for him. … We stand by Luke. I know the front office does.
"At the end of the day, Luke isn't the one going out, shooting 2-for-15, turning the ball over or missing free throws. That's us."
— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) January 8, 2018
Kuzma’s comments come just one day after LaVar Ball, the father of fellow Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, caused major controversy by blasting Walton and saying he had lost control of the team (full remarks here). The Lakers have also lost 11 of their last 13 games and are a Western Conference-worst 12-27.
Nevertheless, Kuzma’s ardent support for Walton is a sign the Lakers players are still all-in on their coach, and management appears to feel the same way.