Luke Walton came into this season on the hot seat, not because of anything he did in his two years as head coach of the Los Angeles, but because he was now the head coach of LeBron James and that’s just how things go.
Walton’s seat got even hotter when the Lakers started the season off 2-5, but ever since they addressed their problem at the center position by signing Tyson Chandler, Walton has coached L.A. to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and earned the respect of his locker room.
Chandler told Allen Sliwa on ESPN Radio’s “Lakers Talk” that he really likes Walton as a coach, and respects the hard job he has to do:
”I think he’s doing a great job... (His job is) very difficult. Him and ‘Bron are the same draft class, I was before both of them. When you have that being the case, and you have a guy that thinks the game the way he does in LeBron, that’s not easy. It’s not easy to coach, it’s not easy to lead in that case, because he’s so smart, he’s so intelligent, he’s so good.
“The great thing and the balance is -- and I think that’s what Luke is figuring out, I think he’s doing a great job -- is you know when to push and when to step back and let players just be great. I think he’s done an excellent job with that balance.
“He’s also given us vets a huge voice in the locker room. I think he respects what we bring to the table and he picks our brains. It’s just about that balance and I think he’s done a great job of pushing when he needs to push, and then stepping back.”
The question, though, is whether or not what Walton is doing is enough for him to keep his job next season.
On the “Woj and Lowe” special on ESPN last week, Adrian Wojnarowski said that Lakers team president Magic Johnson has a strong desire to bring in his own, hand-picked head coach for the team. Walton was hired under the Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak regime in 2016.
Walton hasn’t done anything to justify getting fired, but he also hasn’t accomplished enough to be deemed untouchable. However, if he’s well-regarded in locker room, it might not be in the front office’s best interest to can him at the end of the season.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out, and how Walton’s standing with the front office changes over that time.