In less than a week, the Los Angeles Lakers will begin their offseason, and the front office is expected to make a few big changes to the team, starting at the head coach position with Luke Walton.
Walton has had arguably the hottest seat in the NBA since the season started, and it’s only gotten hotter with the lack of success the Lakers have had. It’s for that reason the rumor mill has been jam packed with potential replacements for Walton, from free agent head coaches like Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd to current Miami Heat assistant Juwan Howard. The Lakers have also been linked to a few head coaches that are currently under contract, most notably LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers.
Last month, Hall-of-Fame NBA reporter Peter Vecsey reported that Rivers has “always wanted to leash the Lakers” and that Los Angeles reportedly had mutual interest. Since then, Rivers promptly denied the report, and now he’s not the only one.
Lakers controlling owner and team president Jeanie Buss told Luca Evans of The Panther, the student newspaper at Chapman University, that there was no truth to the rumor:
“The headline … was completely not true. It’s crazy,” Buss told Jeff Pearlman’s sports journalism class March 29.
Three days later, Rivers responded to the rumor establishing his intent to stay with the Clippers, a clear decision given he is under contract with the team until the end of the season in 2021. The next day, Buss said she believes the headline read “Lakers lose to Clippers again.”
“There was nothing to that at all,” Buss said, with a shake of her head. “How are you supposed to respond to that? I mean, should you respond to it?”
Buss also said that she struggled with whether or not she should address the rumor:
“If you respond to (a rumor) officially, you’re giving credibility to non-credible sources,” Buss said. “Yet, by not responding to it, then it has a life and it gets into the psyche of fans.”
This isn’t the first time Buss has felt the need to call out reporting about the Lakers, as she recently called reports of the Lakers’ offers for Anthony Davis “fake news,” so this is clearly something that bothers her. However, the only problem that Buss runs into with addressing such rumors is that she might then be expected to address every rumor regarding the Lakers’ head coaching position, of which there are many. So that’s probably not realistic, even if it does add clarity in this case.
Still, it’s a little funny that the rumor she chose to address was the one about arguably the most qualified candidate they were rumored to be pursuing. Can she also deny the Jason Kidd and Mark Jackson reports? Please?
In all seriousness, the fact that Buss is trying to put out all of these small fires around the organization is admirable, but she probably shouldn’t spend too much time on it, because there will be a lot more of these rumors before they slow down anytime soon.