Since reports of Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton being on thin ice with president of basketball operations Magic Johnson surfaced heading into the weekend, there have been few public endorsements for Walton from within the organization.
Johnson said he supports Walton and won’t fire him this year “unless something drastic happens,” and LeBron James distanced himself from the outside noise surrounding the locker room. The most support Walton has received has been from his dad, fellow coaches and, of course, Richard Jefferson, Walton’s former teammate and close friend.
In an interview with Howard Beck on the “The Full 48” podcast, Jefferson said he doesn’t understand why or how the Lakers would replace Walton, who he said has a unique basketball acumen (language NSFW):
“When people are like ‘Well, is Luke’s job in jeopardy?’, it’s like, ‘who the fuck are they going to find that has more basketball knowledge than this guy?’ Yes, he’s young — he’s younger, he’s not super young — but it’s like, give me a resume of an intelligent basketball mind that it’s in a legacy, that knows superstars ...”
Jefferson acknowledged that Walton wasn’t brought on by the current front office, but he is confident that Magic would have hired him in a heartbeat if he was in power at the time.
“If Magic Johnson would have been the GM, everyone in L.A. would have been like ‘Magic, when are you bringing fucking Luke here?’ So don’t tell me now that Magic took over after Luke was there that all of a sudden Magic has some trick up his sleeve to invent somebody that has been around Hall of Fame players, that has won championships as a player, that grew up in a household with an MVP and that grew up as a child with MVP’s like Larry Bird and the Celtics.
“That person doesn’t exist, so Lakers organization, fanbase, understand this: Luke Walton is your best opportunity to be successful for the next 5-10 years in my humble opinion.”
Counterpoint: Byron Scott would still be head coach if Johnson was in charge at the time.
In all seriousness, Jefferson has a point. How many coaches have had as up-close of a view as Walton of what it’s like win at the highest level for the past three decades? Whether it’s been as a player, an assistant or the child of a player, Walton has been inside the locker rooms of some of the greatest teams ever assembled and has been coached or worked under some of the brightest coaching minds the league has ever seen.
He might still have a few things to figure out, but it’s hard not to have confidence that a guy with a basketball mind like Walton’s will put it all together eventually.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.