Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton apparently needn’t worry about his job security if his squad gets off to a poor start to the 2018-19 regular season. That’s the message team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have delivered to him anyway.
From ESPN.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk:
“As I was talking to Luke [with GM Rob Pelinka], we said don’t worry about if we get out to a bad start,” Johnson, the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, said Thursday as the team’s brass met with the media. “We have seen that with LeBron [James] going to Miami, and we have seen that when he came back to Cleveland. He is going to struggle because there are so many new moving parts. But eventually we are going to get it, and we are going to be really a good team.”
This message should come across as reassuring if you’re a Lakers fan. No, Walton will not be given an infinitely long leash. But it’s refreshing to know that, at least for now, he won’t be held to some ridiculous standard from the jump.
And make no mistake, there was a chance he might be. It comes with the territory of coaching LeBron James—particularly when your tenure predates his arrival. He engenders a circus of expectations and criticism, and many have speculated that Walton’s job could be in jeopardy if LeBron starts to bristle at the Lakers’ performance.
But Johnson’s sentiments don’t feel like hollow lip service. He hasn’t tried to skip too many steps as part of the Lakers’ latest reinvention. More importantly, the idea that James would force out Walton is laughable.
Never mind if he had a hand in David Blatt getting axed from Cleveland. He’s already joined an young Lakers squad that isn’t built to contend right away. He’s clearly trying to distance himself from preexisting notions that teams must drop everything for his own window. It wouldn’t make sense, then, for him to rock the boat with Walton behind the scenes or in public.
Of course, it’s easy to say all this before the Lakers play the games. We need to see their reserved approach in action to believe it. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel like Johnson is blowing smoke. Rather, it feels like Walton will be given the leeway to see what he has in this new-look roster.