When a superstar with the kind of stature LeBron James possesses decides on his next destination, he does his homework. One can only imagine the types of names stored in his phone, and before he made the call to come play for the Los Angeles Lakers, he reached out to see what kind of coach he might be playing for.
Richard Jefferson, a close friend of both James and Luke Walton, told Howard Beck on “The Full 48” podcast that James asked him about his former teammate at Arizona:
“I talked to ‘Bron about Luke before ‘Bron made his decision and he was like ‘Yo, tell me about Luke,’ and I’m like ‘Dude, find someone to say something bad about him.’ He’s been in the league, he’s been around, if you want to do some due diligence find someone to say something bad about Luke.”
The implication of that is that there isn’t anyone with anything bad to say about Walton, and Jefferson thinks that’s just part of why Walton was and continues to be the right coach for this Lakers team:
He cares about basketball the right way, and on top of it you look at the way the young players have gotten better. (Kyle) Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, even Lonzo (Ball) in this short amount of time, Josh Hart ... Those guys didn’t get better because, no disrespect, because of Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson ... All of those guys got better because of the work the coaches put in.”
With all the noise surrounding Walton and the Lakers after meeting-gate, it’s great to hear informed thoughts on what made Walton one of the NBA’s most promising young coaches as recently as a season ago. Jefferson is obviously biased because he and Walton go way back, but it seems safe to say that he’s echoing sentiments from around the league based on his advice to James to call around.
James obviously didn’t come to the Lakers specifically to play for Walton. But according to Jefferson, Walton’s presence didn’t hurt the Lakers’ chances at landing LeBron. Those two will have to continue to work together if their tenures are going to be successes.