As the Los Angeles Lakers prepare to take on the Chicago Bulls, speculation about the job security (or potentially lack thereof) of Luke Walton is reaching a point of maximum saturation. Walton reportedly could be coaching for his job on Tuesday night, as ridiculous that might sound given that the team is dealing with an injury to LeBron James and that the remaining roster wasn’t constructed to deal with that.
There is, however, a reason for optimism if you’re hoping Walton sticks around, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
It is also an open secret in Lakerland that Walton has the strongest possible backing from the owner Jeanie Buss. Even if the front office tandem of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka held Walton responsible for the Lakers’ swoon and wanted to make an in-season change, Buss almost certainly would prevent such rashness.
That is hardly a guarantee of Walton’s safety, but Stein’s phrasing here is perfect. No matter how you might feel about the Lakers right now, it’s hard to see firing Walton as a fix-all solution. Could the Lakers perhaps step in to make an addition to his staff? Could they merely wait to see if things turn around when or if everyone regains their health?
Any one of those things seem to be a more realistic option than firing Walton outright and hoping whoever they hire is a step in the right direction — especially if the names that most often come up as when discussing theoretical replacements are Jason Kidd and Mark Jackson.
Yes, these last 10 games have been disappointing and might have done actual damage to the trade values of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. Falling out of the playoff picture over this time shows just how flawed the Lakers are without James. But that’s the thing: Walton didn’t put this team together. Johnson and Pelinka did.
If Johnson and Pelinka hold Walton completely responsible for this current state of affairs, he’d be ignoring the larger problem: The roster they built. All of the free agents they signed after James have spent long stretches of this season being either ineffective or out altogether. That isn’t Walton’s fault.
All this might be for naught. The Lakers could (and probably should) take care of business against Chicago, and James could receive great news in his re-evaluation Wednesday. But if it does come to Buss having to step in and save Walton from the front office she hired, the organization would probably be better for it, and really, that’s all that matters.
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