In just two weeks, the Los Angeles Lakers will play their final game of the regular season and once the final buzzer sounds on April 9, the team will shift their attention to what promises to be an eventful offseason.
After adding LeBron James failed to end their six-year playoff drought, the Lakers will go into the summer with more questions than answers, with the biggest uncertainty hovering over the organization being head coach Luke Walton’s future with the team. The more immediate problem is that everyone with an internet connection already knows that his future is uncertain, and that’s putting it lightly.
Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Wizards, Walton indirectly addressed rumors about his job security after he was asked more generally about everyone on the team’s — including his own — seeming lack of job security:
“We focus on what is important to us and the things that we can control. For players, the coaching staff, everyone. And that is that we have a job to do. It’s our job to come out, continue to work, continue to try to get better and continue to try to win ball games,” Walton said. “That’s what we give our time, our efforts and our thoughts to.”
Walton acknowledged that the all of the speculation surrounding the team could be distracting, but he believes he prepared the locker room for it the best way he could going into the season and that they’ve been able to ignore most of the rumors.
“It can be (a distraction) if you let it, but we do our best to not. We talked about at the beginning of the year that there’s going to be outside noise all season long. We do our best to not let it be a distraction,” Walton said.
For all Walton’s faults as a head coach, he’s been consistent with his message in the locker room, and that’s been essential to him managing all of the turmoil the team has dealt with this season, whether it’s been with trade rumors or veteran players that are unhappy with their roles on the team.
Walton still has a ways to go as a strategist, but he has all the intangibles a team could want in a head coach. Wherever he ends up next season, he’ll need time to come into his own as a leader. If Walton’s anything like D’Angelo Russell or Julius Randle, he’ll thrive as soon as he leaves Los Angeles.