Luke Walton feels like a dead man walking on the Lakers sideline, and not just because LA is going to miss the playoffs. There are many factors at play, from LeBron to his agent, Rich Paul, and essentially, control of the franchise.
Is President Magic Johnson putting together what he thinks is the best Lakers team, or is he just following orders from LeBron and Rich Paul? It’s anyone’s guess, but after reading a piece in The Athletic about the situation, it’s pretty clear the Luke Walton camp is pushing back against Magic and LeBron.
But is it too late?
While Buss has been an ardent backer of Walton, she has also empowered Johnson, who has been less resolute in his support. His efforts have all worked against his coach rather than with him. After delivering James in July, Johnson ignored the pleas of the coaching staff that he retain Brook Lopez and Julius Randle. Instead, he signed controversial and limited journeymen JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson.
So with less than 20 games left in the season, and the Lakers out of playoff contention, now we find out the coaching staff didn’t want Michael Beasley (who is currently playing in China), and they wanted to keep Brook Lopez, who is 5th in the NBA in blocks and shooting a career-best 36 percent on 3-pointers.
Interesting that this comes out now, as Luke Walton is at the end of the plank.
The question is whether or not there will be blowback from fans. The answer is easy: If the Lakers can land a star in free agency – Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving or Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard – or trade for Anthony Davis then nobody will mention Walton, Beasley or Lopez. All will be fine.
Magic and LeBron will look like heroes.
If they don’t get one of those big names? Gulp. It wouldn’t shock me to see Magic Johnson – yes, the most popular Lakers player of all-time – be the guy who loses the power struggle to LeBron. That would certainly be ugly.