Before the season started, Magic Johnson announced to the media that Luke Walton had time to make things work with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. That patience reportedly lasted eight games.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin of ESPN, the pressure is already on Walton to start winning now.
In a meeting on Tuesday, following a winless two-game trip, Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson admonished coach Luke Walton for the team’s sluggish start to the season, league sources told ESPN.
Johnson’s cutting appraisal elevated an already acute awareness within the Lakers coaching staff that there are intense and immediate pressures on Walton to deliver the franchise a winner in short order.
One has to wonder whether a part of the meeting pertained to the center rotation Johnson and Rob Pelinka gave Walton to work with. (Probably not.)
Wojnarowski and McNenamin continue.
Despite Johnson’s prior proclamations of needing to allow time for Walton to develop a young roster surrounding four-time MVP LeBron James, evidence is mounting that Walton’s job security ultimately depends upon his ability to significantly improve upon a 3-5 record to start the season.
As things currently stand, the Lakers would not make the playoffs if they started today. All their losses this season have come to teams coming off playoff seasons, and in none of those games were the Lakers blown out.
It will be interesting to see if this leads to a heavier reliance on the veterans Johnson signed over the summer or a movement from the free-wheeling and up-tempo pace that the Lakers have been utilizing to this point.
Throughout his career, LeBron has played on teams that relied on his half-court efficiency. Thus far, James has seemed to welcome the run-and-gun style Walton has installed for this team, but as Walton wasn’t hired with LeBron’s recommendation, it’s fair to speculate whether the meeting between coach and president of basketball operations took place with a few notes from the team’s superstar, too.
The Lakers’ tough opening schedule continues through to the next four games or so, but lightens up considerably after that. Whether Walton makes it through that stretch is apparently in question now.