Walton skates on thin ice as Lakers seek their identity
Somebody get Magic Johnson a mirror.
The Lakers president said all the right things in September, indicating that the front office and fans should “not worry if we get off to a bad start” because a bit of patience would be required. So much for that; ESPN reported that Johnson “admonished” Luke Walton during a Tuesday meeting, delivering a “cutting appraisal” of the coach’s performance.
Magic can’t be serious — and that goes for general manager
Rob Pelinka as well. It takes at least three months for teammates to adjust to LeBron
James’ command of the proceedings, especially a group of young players. Meanwhile, the Lakers inexplicably handed one-year contracts to veterans Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley, none of whom planned to watch the Lakers’ progress from the bench.
“It’s an impossible situation for Luke,” said TNT’s Charles
Barkley before the season began. “He’s got LeBron, who is going to do things his way. He’s got those young kids who are probably in awe of LeBron. And he’s got those older guys who are going to seek attention.”
Sources say Magic chided Walton for not establishing an “identity” or a clear-cut system. Good luck with that on a roster painfully short on outside shooting and defensive prowess. Where’s the “system” when Rondo’s presence complicates the development of Lonzo
Ball? How can Walton find proper playing time for Josh
Hart, by all indications a budding star? Walton would establish a very clear identity if he didn’t have those veterans cluttering up the scene.
(JaVale McGee is a notable exception. Averaging 27 minutes a game at center, putting up the jumpers and fall-aways he never could take in Oakland, McGee is having the time of his life. We’ll see if things change with the Lakers about to sign
Tyson Chandler, who was bought out by Phoenix.)
Meanwhile, you have to wonder whether James, while publicly supporting Walton, has been delivering unfavorable critiques to Johnson and Pelinka. And it’s significant to know that Walton’s five-year contract (April 2016) was executed by deposed executives
Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.
Walton’s biggest ally might be owner Jeanie Buss, a major supporter since Walton’s playing days with the Lakers. Maybe she’ll tell Johnson and Pelinka to relax and acknowledge the reality of an untenable situation.
Side note: LeBron has referred to those incoming veterans as “M.U.D. That’s misunderstood, unappreciated and determined.” The Deadspin website offered a slightly different version: “The Wayward Bozos.”
Around the NBA The Warriors miss Patrick
McCaw as a person, but they’re baffled by his holdout, given that he holds no leverage. Sadly, he just might vanish without a trace. Alfonzo McKinnie, who played the entire fourth quarter Friday night against Minnesota, looks to be far more valuable as an all-around player.
One day after coach Steve
Kerr said there was no chance the Warriors could fit DeMarcus Cousins into next year’s salary structure (should he prove his worth upon returning), general manager Bob
Myers told NBC Sports Bay Area, “Options are open, like anything. You just don’t know what’s going to be on July 1, 2019. With a guy like DeMarcus, who knows? If he wants to come back, let’s bring him back.” Said
Jim Barnett on the Wednesday night telecast, “Maybe he’ll like it so much, he’ll come back for the minimum.”
Write it down: Draymond
Green, unabashedly obsessed with being named Defensive Player of the Year, will win that award. With a lot of players backing off their defensive focus, fearing foul trouble under the new freedom of movement rules, Green has stepped up his defensive game. It’s a stunning thing to behold. This will be a neon-lights story at playoff time.
Excellent point made by Jack
McCallum, among the finest NBA writers, about Stephen
Curry to ESPN: “(Wilt) Chamberlain, Kareem (AbdulJabbar) and the great big men like (Bill) Russell changed the game from the inside. He’s changed the game from the outside. He’s a walking piece of history.” Only one other player in league history has done that: the Celtics’ Bob Cousy, who revolutionized fancy ballhandling and exciting fast breaks in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Don’t miss a chance to watch Oregon in Pac-12 play this season. The Ducks have Bol Bol, the 7-foot-2 son of Manute Bol, and he is nothing short of a revelation. He handles the ball like a guard, shows textbook footwork on inside moves, blocks or changes shots on the defensive end, runs the floor with passion and, get this, has a feathery three-point shot. A freshman who grew up in Kansas, Bol spent his junior year of high school at Mater Dei (Orange County), then moved on to Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev. He passed up an offer from Kentucky, among others, to play for the Ducks. Another lanky Oregon product, Chris Boucher, didn’t work out in his G League trial with the Warriors, but he signed a two-way contract with Toronto. There’s a Canada connection — he grew up in Montreal — and the 6-foot-10 Boucher has already appeared in a Raptors game, notching six points and two rebounds in 2:17 against Milwaukee on Monday.
Lakers coach Luke Walton is trying to blend youngsters, experienced players on one-year deals — and LeBron James.