According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, executives and agents are starting to question whether Walton is part of the Lakers’ plans for the future. “Whatever you want to say about LaVar Ball, he has smoked out the fact that the Lakers do not support Luke Walton. That is now crystal clear,” Windhorst told the Rich Eisen Show Friday. “And there are now guys out there wondering openly to me, executives, coaching agents, ‘I wonder who the Lakers are going to hire as their next coach.’ “Because that has been revealed here that they don’t have unconditional support for Luke.”
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“Jeanie has always been great,” said Walton, who has met with Johnson and says he has received support from the front office as the Lakers continue to rebuild. “There is no doubt that they support me. I haven’t seen the tweet, but again, I don’t have Twitter. But I know they support [me and the coaching staff].” This is the second time Buss has tweeted “#InLukeWeTrust” since New Year’s Eve.
LaVar Ball might have been right after all. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Lakers do not support Luke Walton, and NBA executives and agents suspect David Fizdale will be Walton’s replacement. From the Rich Eisen Show (starting at 0:50): “Whatever you want to say about LaVar Ball, he has smoked out the fact that the Lakers do not support Luke Walton. And that is now crystal clear. And there are now guys out there wondering openly to me—executives, coaches, agents—who the Lakers are going to hire as their next coach. Because that has been revealed here: That they do not have unconditional support for Luke. I got executives in my ear, I got agents in my ear, saying, ‘Oh yeah, they’re probably going to hire David Fizdale.’”
Yet despite LaVar’s assertion to ESPN that the Lakers (13-27) were “not playing for Luke no more,” or that he’s “not connecting with one player,” a person with direct knowledge of the Lakers’ thinking told USA TODAY Sports that Walton’s job is not in danger and that the organization still has complete faith in the coach who is in the second season of a five-year, $25 million deal. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
“It’s just a lot of white noise, in a sense,” added Kuzma, who scored 14 points in a 132-113 home win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday to snap a nine-game losing slide. “Luke is my guy. I love playing for him. I’m sure most of us love playing for him too. … We stand by Luke. I know the front office does.”
Tania Ganguli: Kyle Kuzma with a strong defense of Luke Walton: “Luke is my guy. I love playing for him. … We just gotta stay looked in as a family and listen to the people that matter in our basketball lives. … We stand by Luke. I know the front office does.”
Walton, for his part, has continued to preach to his team that the only opinions that matter are the ones in his locker room, a classic Phil Jackson approach of letting chaos outside the bubble of the team bring the group closer together. Privately, sources close to Walton said he’s more annoyed by the distraction than concerned about his job security.
So what, if anything, might be the ripple effect of all of this? That part remains unclear, but the notion of all of LaVar’s noise about Walton leading to the coach’s demise is extremely unlikely. Not only is he in the second season of a five-year, $25 million deal, but the Lakers – who have changed coaches four times since May of 2011 – have learned the hard way in recent years that coaching changes aren’t the magic elixir to all that ails them. In lieu of that, all the Lakers are left with is a whole lot of unnecessary negativity that could do damage beyond this season.
Walton did his best to diffuse the latest LaVar situation at the team’s shootaround on Sunday, saying “I’m fine with it. It doesn’t bother me. My only concern with any of it is for ‘Zo. As long as ‘Zo is fine with it, and ‘Zo can come in and play and it doesn’t affect mine and his relationship, then it doesn’t bother me at all.” But there was plenty to be gleaned from what he didn’t say, from those hesitations that came after the team’s beat writers lobbed all the relevant questions. There’s simply no way this isn’t affecting their relationship now, and Lonzo’s tepid responses on Sunday surely won’t do much to help on this front.
Walton, whose team ended a nine-game losing streak with a 132-113 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, disagreed with LaVar’s latest criticism of him. Walton, who said Friday morning that he is not coaching as if his job is on the line, was asked whether he has received assurances from anyone in Lakers upper management. “Yeah. We’re, I feel, very secure in my job status right now,” Walton said. “We talk all the time. They’re 100 percent behind and supporting what we’re doing.”
“I know they have my back,” Walton said of Lakers management. “Whatever those meetings [with LaVar Ball in the past] are, I’m not concerned with those. My concerns are coaching our team and prepping for games and working with what gives us the best chance of winning. I know our front office and organization. They’ll do whatever they have to do on their end of it, but I’m not spending my time trying to figure out what they’re all doing about it. I just know they’ll take care of it.”
LaVar torched Lakers coach Luke Walton from the other side of the planet this weekend, as the Ball patriarch slammed the struggling Lakers for not wanting to play for Walton, who he said was “too young,” who “doesn’t have control of the team,” and was incapable of “connecting” with the team. Lonzo was asked outright if he likes playing for Walton, to which he answered, “I’ll play for anybody.” “My job is to play basketball,” Lonzo added. “I don’t decide who the coach is.”
Ramona Shelburne: Luke Walton’s job status is “not even a conversation” according to a Lakers source.
Lonzo Ball says LaVar Ball speaks his mind and its his father’s comments about Luke Walton losing the locker room is LaVar’s opinion. Lonzo says he doesn’t think Walton has lost the locker room.
Tania Ganguli: Luke Walton says he knows the Lakers front office has his back. Doesn’t agree with LaVar Ball’s assessment that he’s lost the locker room. Luke and Lonzo have not talked about LaVar’s comments yet today.
Head coach Luke Walton was asked if he feels like his job is ever in jeopardy during the Lakers’ eight-game slide despite majority owner Jeanie Buss tweeting strong support for Walton on New Year’s Eve complete with the hashtag “InLukeWeTrust.” “No, I coach as if it’s not,” Walton said after asked about coaching as if his job is on the line.
Luke Walton: “As I preach to my players that control what you can control in life, that has to be my philosophy as a coach as well… [Team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka] have been great, they have been supportive. They obviously understand where we are at as a team and what we are trying to do and what the big picture is…”
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January 16, 2018 | 11:20 am EST Update
Adrian Wojnarowski: The NBA’s investigation into the Clippers-Rockets tomfoolery began late Monday night and continues into today, league sources tell ESPN. There will be no shortage of punished individuals.
Gordon hit up Craig’s in West Hollywood after the heated battle with the Clippers in which several Rockets players — including Chris Paul — reportedly tried to fight Clips players in the tunnel and locker room area after the game. Gordon told TMZ Sports he doesn’t expect any suspensions and really played the whole thing down as no big deal.
For the rest of the season, the Kings will not play at least two of the veterans – George Hill, Kosta Koufos, Garrett Temple, Carter or Randolph – coach Dave Joerger said. In some games, three veterans could sit. “It’s not an easy conversation,” Joerger said. “They’re very professional, they’re competitive. All of them are rotation players on a playoff team. So to ask those guys to step aside at different times is not enjoyable for me. They handled it well, they’ve been pros.”
Goran Dragic explained why there was such a look of concern of the faces of the Heat players as Tyler Johnson writhed on the court in pain Monday in Chicago. “I’ve never seen Tyler stay down like that,” Dragic said.
But to have the entire team race the length of the court as he stayed down was testimony to what this team thinks of Tyler. “Tyler’s one of those guys that you never know,” said James Johnson, who is as close to Tyler as any player on the team. “He could have had a broken leg, and he’d still be sitting here making sure we was all good, making sure that our spirits were still high. But it’s hard to read that guy.” “We’re all in the trenches together. And we all have respect for Tyler and we all love him. It don’t surprise me.”
Even as the Russian team faces up to being barred from next month’s Winter Games for doping offenses, audiences are flocking to see a movie about Soviet glory on the Olympic basketball court 46 years ago. “Going Vertical” tells the story of the Soviet Union team which won gold in 1972, becoming the first basketball team in history ever to beat the United States at the Olympics.