Eric Pincus: LeBron is very tight with Fizdale – my understanding is that Luke is safe. I believe that some people think Lakers will go to any length to get LeBron, which would, in theory mean Fizdale over Luke. I don’t know that to be true, been told it’s not but that doesn’t mean truth told
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Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss emphatically said Luke Walton will be “the Lakers coach, period.” When asked by ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth on “Buckets” if Walton will remain the coach through the regular season, free agency and the summer, Buss replied, “Absolutely. Luke Walton is the Lakers coach, period. There’s no worrying about it, there’s no speculation. He’s done a terrific job.
Phoenix and Memphis already have made coaching changes and according to several NBA team executives there could be as many as 10 job openings this offseason. That list could include both Los Angeles clubs as well as the Knicks, a team that has performed better than expected under Jeff Hornacek.
Mike Bresnahan: Lakers GM Rob Pelinka said team management supported second-year coach Luke Walton. “Luke’s done a tremendous job. We fully support him — Magic, myself, Jeanie,” Pelinka said.
Mike Bresnahan: Rob Pelinka added that the Lakers front office fully agrees on the need to keep ascending the Larry O’Brien “trophy mountain.” “Until we get to the top of it, we won’t be satisfied,” he said.
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.”
“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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March 20, 2018 | 5:14 am EDT Update
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is targeting a return to action on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks, the team’s next opponent, league sources told ESPN. The two-time MVP will have his right ankle re-evaluated on Tuesday. If the evaluation reveals enough progress and there are no unforeseen setbacks from this point to Friday, the sharpshooter intends to play after missing the past five games, sources said.
Marc Gasol said he will have questions about the direction of the team after the offseason. How will you reassure him that Memphis remains the best fit for him at this stage of his career? Chris Wallace: Marc is having a terrific career here, both individually – being a multiple All-Star, being defensive player of the year, the All-NBA recognition. And he’s had tremendous team success. So, I don’t think one off year from the team success side tarnishes what he’s achieved or necessarily is going to be the norm going forward for the Grizzlies. This happens to all sorts of teams, where you have not as good a year as where you expect to be. But that doesn’t mean you can’t jump right back in and be successful again next year and that’s what our goal is. And he’s a big part of that.
Shumpert is almost certain to opt in for next season. Having dealt with foot and knee injuries, this is not the time for Shumpert to test free agency when he has $11 million guaranteed for next season, even if he’s not a part of the Kings’ long-term plans. I’m intrigued by what Shumpert might add. He’s only 27 and has shown he can play in pressure situations, having been a part of Cleveland’s 2016 NBA championship team. Shumpert will be motivated to show the rest of the league he is healthy and that he can play a key role on a team.
Donatas Urbonas: Gudaitis confirmed he met with Cavaliers representatives in Milano. They invited Gudaitis to work out in Cleveland upcoming summer. Gudaitis told his priority is National Team and FIBA 19 qualifiers. But if everything is ok with the schedule, he’ll come to Cleveland
Now that you’re in New York, this is a totally different market. How have you felt about the way the city has embraced you? Michael Beasley: Honestly, I couldn’t ask for anything better. For the city and fans to embrace not only the way I play but who I am as much as they did – it feels great to be able to be yourself and be accepted. I thank the city forever for that. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t win as much as we wanted to this year.
Players like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love have talked about that anxiety. Do you think that has helped others be more open with their own struggles? Michael Beasley: Hats off to those guys, man. More people than you think go through that. I go through it. It took me awhile to realize it because we’re raised to believe that it’s an embarrassing thing. It’s definitely inspiring for them to be honest about what they are experiencing. They opened up the floodgates, they opened up the doors, for the next great NBA player or even the next great scientist. The next shy kid with anxiety can break out of their shell because of this.
I watched your interview with Taylor Rooks on SNY where you talked about parenting your daughter, painting your nails. I thought that was super cool. Michael Beasley: [Laughs] Listen, man. I lost my hood card because I’ve got paint on my nails, bro. So that’s good to hear. My four-year-old will be five in April. Not much will change in those years. I think it’s cool. People should be themselves no matter what anyone says and how it feels. Just be comfortable with being yourself.