Since reports of Luke Walton falling out of favor with Los Angeles Lakers team president Magic Johnson surfaced on Friday, the LeBron James and the rest of the locker room have been mostly mum on the situation.
While that hasn’t exactly changed, James showed something resembling support for his head coach following the Lakers’ 114-110 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.
When asked whether it felt better to win given all the drama around Walton this week, James said kind of (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“It’s great to win period. The coaching staff puts us in a position to win, and it’s up to us to go out and execute. Luke could care less what’s going on on the outside. We could as well, I mean I’m the last person to ask about scrutiny or things of that nature. None of that stuff matters to me, the only thing that matters to me is what’s going on inside of this locker room.”
This is about the closest James has gotten to endorsing Walton this season, and that’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, it’s just who he is. He made similar comments at the team’s shootaround Saturday, although they were less an endorsement of Walton than an statement that the team is unbothered by the drama (via ESPN):
“It doesn’t bother me at all because I don’t pay attention to it, I don’t listen to it,” James said Saturday in advance of the Lakers’ game against the Portland Trail Blazers, when asked about the noise surrounding his team.
”It actually never even gets to me really, so it’s not a big deal for us,” James continued. “We need to figure out how we can string together some great games or even good games and bring our win total from where it is now. Because that’s the business we’re in. That’s the only thing we want to do. We want to be as good a team as we can be and win ballgames.”
This might seem tepid, but these comments by James aren’t all that different from the ones made by Walton at practice on Friday.
Walton told reporters that he had a discussion with his team about the rumors that would surround the locker room before the season started, and it sounded like everyone was on the same page.
“Here’s the first (rumor). Let’s handle it as a group, not give it life and keep working on what we need to work on,” Walton said then. “I thought we came out today and had a great practice. Players were engaged and involved, talking to each other about what needs to be done as well as the coaches, which is the type of environment and the type of culture we want. I think we’re in a good place.”
With a win in Portland, the Lakers improved to 4-5 on the season. A win on Sunday against the Toronto Raptors would give the Lakers a .500 record for the first time this year.
Would that make all the speculation about Walton’s job security go away? Of course not, but as the Lakers get bet better, it will get harder to argue that Walton is the problem.
Winning is also the best way to keep the King happy. If James is happy with the direction the team is going in, Walton can rest easy, although from the sounds of it, he already is.
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