From the outside looking in, the seat Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton sits in during games appears to be engulfed in proverbial flames after the team entered the All-Star break with a dispiriting and lethargic 117-113 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
The Lakers firing Walton midseason wouldn’t seem to accomplish a whole lot, but given that the team seemed to mostly just lay down and die against the lottery-bound Hawks, and that the Lakers would have almost two weeks before their next game to install a potential replacement, if they were going to try and install a new leader for their final playoff push, a completely dispiriting loss that president of basketball operations Magic Johnson witnessed in person would seem to be the time.
Walton wasn’t asked about that possibility by reporters after the loss, but he didn’t seem to be worried about losing his job, and spoke like a man expecting to be around when the team returned from their midseason vacation during his postgame interview on Spectrum Sportsnet:
“That was a disappointing loss for us, but it’s time for us to get away and reflect for a little bit about where we are as a group. I think this first part of the season we’ve gone through a lot of adversity as a group and we’re probably not where we want to be, but we’re still close enough.
“We’ve got a challenge ahead of us coming back after All-Star, and we’ve got some work to do, but I think we have a group that’s up for that challenge and will look forward to attacking that when we get back.”
What can the Lakers do to come back ready to push for a playoff spot they’re 2.5 games out of as of Tuesday night? Walton told reporters that the answer is “different for everyone,” but that there is one constant he wants to see from his team when they return:
“Coming back reenergized with the idea of ‘let’s try to do something special. Let’s sacrifice. Let’s go out and give for the team.’ That’s what we were doing earlier and I think we’ll get back to that.
“I asked the guys to get quiet for a little bit over the weekend. I know everyone has got family or events, but spend some time by yourself. I think we’ve got a group that will be ready to go when we get back.”
It remains to be seen if Walton will be there to greet them, but as of publishing time he’s still Lakers head coach, and despite the adversity — trade rumors, injuries and more — he and the team have had to go through this year, he’s ready to come back in a little over a week and make one more push with this roster.
“We haven’t had a lot of continuity with our group,” Walton told reporters. “We’ve got to figure it out and go on a good run to end the season.”
If the Lakers can’t do so, Walton would appear unlikely to continue on much past that.