When LeBron chose to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, much was made about him supposedly making the decision without really consulting with head coach Luke Walton. In fact, one report said James had “zero contact” with Walton.
James clearly didn’t think Walton presence was an issue, and after meeting with the coach in Las Vegas on Sunday, the two seem to be on the same page.
Walton told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that he views many of LeBron’s qualities as ones he can work with as a coach.
Btw, LeBron did more than watch the Lakers summer league team in Vegas on Sunday. He met with Lakers coach Luke Walton, who said, “he’s about the team. He’s about doing things the right way and he’s about winning. I can work with those qualities.”
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 17, 2018
Though LeBron is the best player in the league and his presence on your team means instant success, it also brings extra pressure and scrutiny. Expectations are raised, and if you fail to live up to them or if LeBron has issues with you, you could find yourself out of a job. Just look at what happened with David Blatt in Cleveland.
If the Lakers underwhelm early in LeBron’s tenure with the team, Walton could find himself on the hot seat. On the other hand, LeBron’s presence could help make Walton’s career as a coach.
It turns out that the early concerns about LeBron James’ relationship with Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton may be fairly overblown.
Bill Oram of The Athletic reported on Tuesday that James and Walton have actually communicated via text message. Oram also adds that the Lakers are confident that the four-time MVP is comfortable with Walton on the bench.
Troubling reports had surfaced in recent days about James’ level of contact with his new head coach, both during the free agent recruitment process and after he had agreed to sign with the Lakers.
Now that James has officially put pen to paper on his four-year, $154 million deal with the purple and gold though, it seems that things are unfolding in a healthy manner between him and Walton. Still, something tells us that this will be far from the last time that the relationship of the two 2003 draftees comes under scrutiny.
If Luke Walton needs some advice on how to coach LeBron James, he can look no further than James’ last head coach.
Speaking at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas on Saturday, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said that he was planning to meet over dinner with his Los Angeles Lakers counterpart (as well as Lakers associate head coach Brian Shaw) to discuss coaching The King.
“I’ll just tell them LeBron’s easy,” said Lue, per Tania Ganguli of the LA Times. “People get this whole thing built up like he’s hard to coach, it’s not. LeBron’s not the problem. It’s the outside tension that’s the problem. Just put added pressure immediately on the coaches, on his teammates. Now everything you do is under a microscope.
“So it’s going to be a totally different change for the Lakers,” he continued. “They’ll be able to handle it. LeBron is easy to play with, very unselfish. LeBron can bring guys along, make sure they’re doing the right thing. It’s going to be good. The outside is what you’ve gotta be able to block out.”
Lue coached James for four years in Cleveland (two as head coach and two as associate head coach). He also used to be teammates with Shaw on the Lakers during their playing careers, which may help explain his willingness to assist.
As Lue hinted at, the four-time MVP mostly takes care of the basketball part of things himself, but it’s the scrutiny that comes along with him that can create headaches for the rest of the team and coaching staff. We do wonder though if one of Lue’s techniques for coaching James would work as well for the Lakers.
The Los Angeles Lakers worked extremely hard to convince LeBron James to sign with them this offseason, but apparently they did not need any help from their head coach.
Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports reports that LeBron had “zero contact” with Luke Walton while the Lakers were recruiting the four-time NBA MVP. As of Wednesday, the two reportedly still had not met.
A source close to #LeBron tells me that Bron had zero contact w/#Lakers head coach Luke Walton throughout the Lakers’ entire recruitment process. “LeBron never met Luke at all,” source says — and they still have not met. Walton will be James’ seventh full-time NBA head coach.
— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) July 4, 2018
Walton is only five years older than James, and he was hired as the Lakers’ coach when they were looking to rebuild with a young roster. It remains to be seen how he will handle coaching one of the biggest icons in NBA history, but the Lakers’ front office will almost certainly go in another direction if LeBron decides he doesn’t want to play for Walton.
We have already seen examples of how much respect LeBron has for the Lakers organization, and that should include the head coach. Him not having to meet with Walton probably says more about how much he wanted to play for L.A. than anything.
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.
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- 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.