The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t exactly been the model for consistency this season.
In the 64 games they’ve played this season, the Lakers have rolled out 19 different starting lineups, and they’re expected to roll out a brand new one on Wednesday. Only five other teams have rolled out more starting lineups than the Lakers this season, and three of them are currently bottom-three teams.
However, most, if not all, of those lineup changes have to do with the injuries head coach Luke Walton has had to manage this season. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and LeBron James, three of the Lakers’ regular starters, have missed at least 10 games this season, with Ball missing the most time (18 games) so far.
It’s for that reason the starting lineup of Ball, Ingram, James, Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee appeared in just 18 games this season. It’s also one the reasons the Lakers fell from grace as fast as they did.
Since their rapid descent, Walton has received heavy criticism, both warranted and unwarranted, but at shootaround on Wednesday, James gave credit Walton for being consistent through the hills and valleys of the season:
LeBron was asked by @geeter3 about the job Luke Walton has done through the difficult stretches.— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) March 6, 2019
"One thing that's been consistent is the voice of our head coach. Throughout all the injuries, he's been the one that's remained the same and consistent throughout the whole year."
It’s true: Walton has undeniably been the coach for the Lakers throughout the entire season, but his mere presence has been one of the few consistent things about his coaching tenure in Los Angeles so far.
During his time as head coach, Walton has struggled to show that he can put the five guys that give the Lakers the best chance to win on the floor, even when he had a healthy roster. The absence of that seemingly basic skill could be what costs Walton his job at the end of the season above anything else.
A lot could change between now and the offseason, but with just 18 games left in the season, Walton might be out of time to reverse any damage he’s done.