Luke Walton’s job is safe. For now.
Despite reports of a tenuous meeting between the Los Angeles Lakers head coach and management, team president Magic Johnson came out and said on Sunday he has no plans to fire Walton, per ESPN.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk:
“Yeah, we’re not going to fire him,” Johnson told ESPN after the Lakers fell behind 41-10 in the first quarter on Sunday before losing to the Toronto Raptors 121-107 at home. “[The meeting last week with Walton] wasn’t even a meeting about that. We just have to be better, and that was it.”
Johnson also gave the same spiel before that loss to the Raptors while speaking with the Los Angeles Times:
“I said it, Luke took it and we’re all good,” Johnson told The Times. “It’s no big deal.”
Johnson insisted that Walton is not on a clock. He was asked if there’s any chance Walton would not finish the season as the Lakers’ head coach.
“He’s going to finish the season,” Johnson said. “Unless something drastic happens, which it won’t.”
That’s, um, sort of definitive. And it’s probably all of the security Walton is going to get.
The Lakers are 4-6 through 10 games, and while their roster and schedule suggest they haven’t exactly underachieved, heads tend to roll when LeBron James’ teams struggle by what’s considered unacceptable margins. The Lakers aren’t there yet. At least, they shouldn’t be. Ten games isn’t enough to make any sweeping judgments.
But if Los Angeles is still hovering outside the Western Conference’s playoff picture after 20, 25, 30 games, then everyone has something to worry about. No way do the Lakers go the entire year without trying to push the postseason bill. Be it a trade or a coaching change, they’ll do something if things don’t improve. So while Johnson’s comments provide a layer of protection for Walton now, they hardly come as a long-term comfort or guarantee.