Ever since word came down that LeBron James had agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, grumblings through the fan base has echoed an uncomfortable sentiment: What might this mean to Luke Walton? Rob Pelinka is here to say that as of right now, there’s nothing to worry about.
“One of the things I said to Luke was ‘One of your greatest strengths as a coach is managing player personalities,’ ” Pelinka said on Spectrum Sportsnet. “I think he’s the perfect guy to keep this locker room unified.”
Coaching a LeBron James’ team can tend to be an uncomfortable situation for a coach. When the team wins, James will get most of the credit. When the team loses, it’s usually the coach who carried the burden of blame, followed by teammates. Some of this is narrative; and some of it is warranted given how good LeBron is. But that doesn’t change the impact that might have on how a coach is perceived.
Tyronn Lue has been fired, re-hired and fired again by fans and analysts alike between quarters of games. James famously bumped Erik Spoelstra during their time in Miami, launching another round of speculation that he wasn’t the one to man the sidelines on that great Heat team.
Walton does have the support of the front office for right now and most importantly is backed adamantly by controlling owner Jeanie Buss. If there’s one voice you want in the organization to, it tends to be the owner, even if she repeats anytime she’s asked about roles within the franchise that she won’t get in the way of with what Magic Johnson, Pelinka and the rest of basketball operations thinks is best.
All that said, Walton has displayed an ability to communicate very well with most of his players and, so long as that continues, there probably won’t be a problem. He might not be a LeBron or Magic Johnson guy, but he is a Lakers champion and, as we saw with Byron Scott and now Kurt Rambis, they tend to get a bit of a longer leash than perceived outsiders. As with everything in the offseason, we’ll just have to wait and see.