It appears that Luke Walton’s time as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers is nearing an end. The former assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors has been at the helm of an odd season for the increasingly-dysfunctional Lakers, and Marc Stein reports that the pairing will not last another year:
The prevailing assumption in league coaching circles remains that Walton will almost certainly be dismissed after the season, followed by the Lakers resuming their trade quest for Davis. But denying Walton an opportunity to at finish out a season wrought with drama and distraction since James’s first dribble in purple and gold would be cruel and needless.
The Lakers pulled off the move of the offseason when they signed LeBron James to a four-year deal. Since then, nearly everything has gone wrong.
Los Angeles opted to let Julius Randle and Brook Lopez walk, then spent significant money on Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley. Their general Rob Pelinka president of basketball operations Magic Johnson never appeared on the same terms as Walton, or team president Jeannie Buss. They publicly included nearly their entire roster in a proposed trade for Anthony Davis, but ultimately failed.
The Lakers start was decent enough, before an injury to James on Christmas Day against the Warriors derailed their season. With James out of the lineup, the Lakers went just 6-11, but when he returned, things didn’t seem to actually get better.
Since James re-entered the lineup in late January, the Lakers are just 4-8. They’re 30-33 overall, in 10th place in the West, and with just 19 games left they’re four-and-a-half games out of the playoffs.
It’s not surprising that Walton would be the one to answer for this. Coaches usually are, and rumor has it that Pelinka and Johnson (who took their positions after Walton had already been hired) want to make their mark with a coach of their own hiring. James, of course, doesn’t have a stellar track record of wanting coaches kept around.
If and when Walton is let go by the team that drafted him and that he won two championships with as a player, he’ll surely have a lot of options.
Some NBA or NCAA teams may be interested in hiring him as a head coach, or perhaps he’ll end up as an assistant coach again . . . maybe in, say, Golden State?