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Lakers interested in Rick Carlisle, but expected to hire Tyronn Lue if Luke Walton is fired

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The Lakers have prematurely started their search for a head coach, and Rick Carlisle is reportedly among the names they’re interested in.

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NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are down to the last nine games on their regular season schedule and the wide belief around the league is that, after three season with the organization, head coach Luke Walton will be let go when the season ends.

There have been a number of high-profile names linked to the Lakers’ head coaching job within the last few weeks, including Jason Kidd, however, arguably none are as esteemed as the latest name to pop up in the rumor mill: Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Lakers have expressed interest in the 17-year coach (via Stein’s latest newsletter):

The ClippersDoc Rivers isn’t the only championship (and currently employed) coach said to interest the Los Angeles Lakers. I’m told that the Lakers, who are widely expected to dismiss the beleaguered Luke Walton at season’s end, are also big fans of Dallas’ Rick Carlisle.

Carlisle is arguably one the top-five best coaches in the league even in spite of how much the Mavericks have struggled over the past few seasons. He is the antithesis of Walton as head coach in terms of lineup management and offensive scheme. In other words, he’s everything Lakers fans seemingly want in a head coach.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like a partnership is likely between the two sides due to Carlisle’s contractual obligations:

As for Carlisle: I reported here last week that his contract was quietly revised before the season to provide an undisclosed salary increase and a one-year extension through the 2022-23 season.

Even if his contract wasn’t an issue, it’s worth questioning if Carlisle would really leave Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in Dallas to try and fix the Lakers. And if he did want to, there is nearly a less-than-zero percent chance the Mavericks would let him go without the Lakers trading a draft pick (or draft picks) their way.

Worth noting: Doc Rivers cost the Clippers a first-round pick back when they traded for him in 2013, so that’s probably where the market starts.

So, if both Carlisle and Rivers both aren’t coming to Los Angeles to coach James and the Lakers, who is? According to Stein, it could be James’ former head coach Tyronn Lue:

The name most frequently cited in league coaching circles is the very available Tyronn Lue. Lue, of course, is a former Laker who is better known for having coached LeBron James for 2 1/2 seasons in Cleveland.

The presumed acceptance he would have from James, who is about to begin his first postseason as a spectator since 2005, would appear to give Lue with a significant advantage over the rest of the field.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumblings about Lue returning to his former team for the head coaching gig. On Monday, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN reported that the Lakers believe Lue “warrants strong consideration” for the head coaching job. Granted, Stephen A. has gotten plenty wrong before, but he has a close relationship with Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, so his reporting here would seem to be worth noting at the very least.

However, while Lue might be the presumed frontrunner for the job right now, it would be in the Lakers’ best interest to evaluate all of their options before making a decision this summer.

Would Lue be a great fit in Los Angeles? Sure, but the front office really needs to make sure they get things right this time around to avoid doing this again in another two-to-three years. Whether it’s Lue, Carlisle or Walton, the Lakers need to take their time with whatever decision they come to, and canvas the market to make sure they find the best option. There are only nine more games before that process (probably) begins.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Christian on Twitter at @RadRivas.