The Los Angeles Lakers had a lot riding on Tuesday’s game against the Chicago Bulls, not only because they were in danger of falling further out of the Western Conference playoff picture, but because of the rumors that Luke Walton might be on the hot seat with a loss.
Despite reports saying otherwise, there was a growing feeling that Walton was coaching for his job on Tuesday. Luckily for him, the Lakers won that game, but not because they were worried about their head coach.
Following the game, Kyle Kuzma said he didn’t feel like he was playing for Walton’s job security.
“No, I wouldn’t necessarily say so,” Kuzma said. “I think Luke has done a great job this year handling all the adversity that we’ve been through. Especially with all these injuries, the suspensions.
“It’s a tough job, and I’m glad I’m not a coach and coaching this team because there would be a lot of different issues I would have to handle. I think he’s done a great job and as long as we just do our part and they do their part we should be fine.”
While a large part of the fanbase might disagree, Kuzma isn’t wrong.
It’s easy to forget that prior to both LeBron James and Rajon Rondo going down with injuries, the Lakers were tied for fourth place in the Western Conference. James obviously had a lot to do with that, as evidenced by the team’s 4-7 record without him, but so did the team’s top-10 defense. That defense has improved to a top-three defense in the 11 games James and Rondo have been sidelined.
Walton deserves to be criticized for his offensive scheme, or lack thereof, but the Lakers’ rapid improvement on the defensive end to try and compensate shouldn’t be ignored, nor should the fact that they’ve improved their record by nine games every year since he’s been the head coach. If they can get healthy soon, that trend should continue this season.
Is Luke Walton a great head coach? That’s debatable, but is he a bad head coach? No, and Kuzma seems to agree.