At the beginning of November, it seemed like Luke Walton’s days as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers were numbered. After the Lakers started the season off with a disappointing 3-5 record, team president Magic Johnson and Luke Walton got into a heated argument over the direction the team was headed. Johnson was especially frustrated with the way the team was performing defensively.
It’s been two months since that meeting, and Walton now finds himself in an eerily similar situation.
Since losing LeBron James to a groin injury on Christmas Day, the Lakers have gone 3-5 and, generally speaking, the fanbase is unhappy with Walton. However, this time around, there have been no complaints from the front office, at least none that have been made public.
In fact, so far only the opposite has been reported.
That could be because, as of now, Walton and Johnson are actually in a good place. In an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Walton said he and Johnson are far removed from where they were at the beginning of the season:
“It’s been good,” he said of the relationship with Magic. “Honestly, it has. …Anytime I call him, he calls back within an hour or two, and we talk hoops. He wants to win, and I want to win. So as far as that (goes), we’re all trying to do the same thing, and I don’t feel like he’s trying to move me out of there.
“We definitely talked about (the Oct. 30 meeting). Me and him, one on one. We one hundred percent have moved forward from it. I don’t think it has changed anything. We still – it’s still the ultimate goal, and there’s time when I’ll call him or go sit in his office and pick his brain on what he’s seeing and what kind of suggestions he might have. But there’s no – what’s the word – discomfort. I don’t walk in there, and it’s like ‘Fuck, I’ve got to go talk to Magic.’ Like, I have no problem going in and sitting down with him and talking about what’s going on without thinking about that at all.”
That’s probably because Johnson and Walton have had a mutually beneficial relationship since then.
Walton responded to Johnson’s concerns over the Lakers’ defensive scheme by coaching his team top-10 defense in the league. Even in spite of all of the injuries on the roster, the Lakers are ranked eighth in the NBA in defensive rating (106.1).
Johnson also addressed Walton’s reported issue with not having a backup center when the Lakers (read: LeBron) went out and got Tyson Chandler from the Phoenix Suns.
Shouts to James Jones.
Walton’s future with the Lakers is still murky, but at least he has a working relationship with the front office right now. Considering how the season started, that’s about as much as fans can ask for.