Doesn’t the meeting Magic Johnson reportedly had with Luke Walton feel like it happened roughly 37 years ago? It was actually only 17 days ago. While LeBron James was dropping 51 on his old team and the Los Angeles Lakers were soundly beating the Miami Heat, Magic Johnson hopped on the telecast and shared his thoughts on where the team stands right now with Mike Trudell of Spectrum Sportsnet.
In short, Johnson is impressed with how far the team has come so quickly (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“Oh yeah, a lot of progress,” Johnson said when asked if he’s seen progress since the first few weeks of the campaign. “Even tonight I’m seeing it. We’re still trying to play with each other and trying to learn each guy, where he likes it, how he likes it, but I think what I’m liking is the defensive end.
“We’re coming together, we’re pressuring the ball. When we pressure the ball we play well, we get in the passing lanes, we play well. So it’s still a work in progress but I’m happy where we are. But I want us to get better, and better, and better. And we will,” Johnson continued.
And despite what many thought after Johnson “admonished” Walton for the team’s poor performance out of the gate, the Lakers president of basketball operations said he’s “always” preached patience with the team.
“I’ve always said it’s going to take us about a month and a half to understand how to really play with each other, so it’s coming. Look for us after the first of the year, I think we’re going to be playing really good basketball,” Johnson said.
As was reported at the time, Johnson has developed a reputation within the Lakers for his volatility, so who knows how he might feel a month from now, but as of this moment, this is exactly what you want to hear, as it’s objectively true in just about every sense.
Since that meeting, the Lakers added Tyson Chandler, shoring up the center rotation, turned around their defense, started winning, played a few more games against something less than playoff-level competition and are within two games of the top of the Western Conference.
It’s almost like a working roster is important to meeting expectations heading into the season. Wow!
This also highlights how ridiculous it was that Johnson was ever frustrated with the job Walton was doing a mere couple weeks into the season. At the time, the Lakers were very much living up to any realistic expectations and have continued to do so since. As Johnson notes, as the team grows more accustomed to playing together, they should continue to improve. It’s likely also easier to note that improvement now that it’s showing up in the win column.
Walton was not and has not been perfect since, but to think he was ever the problem at the time of his meeting with Johnson was just, well, wrong.
At the end of the day, all that matters is the progress Johnson has noticed, and whether that continues. So long as it does, Walton’s job remains safe — as it always should have been.