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Is Coach Luke Walton to Blame for Lakers’ Low Rank?

Date Posted: November 7, 2018

Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton has been gaining some pressure following the decline of the Lakers’ performance this season.

With the addition of LeBron James to the team, NBA fans have had high expectations for Lakers. However, Los Angeles runs low at the West Conference standings. With only 4 out of 10 games won, Lakers stands at 11th place. It appears that the Lakers are not doing well, and some fans are blaming it on Walton.

So far in the season, Walton has been making bad defensive decisions like putting together a lineup with no chemistry. Walton may have had a difficult time matching a team to fit in with James’s play as the Lakers’ game against the Toronto Raptors showed the team’s flaws.

The Lakers had never been outscored by 24 points in the first quarter since NBA season 1954-55 until the Los Angeles-Toronto game last Sunday, November 4. The Raptors got the opening frame advantage against the Lakers with a score of 42-17.

The Lakers also stand among the lower half of the teams in terms of defensive efficiency with 1.086 ranking 21st place and points allowed with 119.9 ppg ranking 27thplace.

Walton’s roster choices have also been in question as the team picks are not performing so well together. The mix of veteran players and rookie players in the roster are taking some time to adjust to one another’s playing styles as reflected on the recent low scores of the team.

For this season, the Lakers have suffered from a back-to-back loss against the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves last October 27 and October 29, respectively. The Lakers may have won two games after that, but when it came to Toronto, the Los Angeles team’s chemistry folded.

Lakers’ recent loss to the Raptors is Los Angeles’ biggest upset as the game ended with an overall score of 121-107. The loss was attained even while the Raptors were at a disadvantage brought about by the absence of All-Star player Kawhi Leonard from the court.

Magic to Fire Walton?

With the continuous decline in performance of the Lakers, reports have circulated around social media and the NBA organization that LA Lakers President Magic Johnson is planning to fire Walton. It has been reported that Johnson and Walton had a serious meeting about the coach’s performance and plans for the team.

According to American pundit Stephen A. Smith, Johnson does not blame Walton entirely for the team’s losses so far. He just thinks that the Lakers need a more experienced coaching staff. Smith said:

“Magic Johnson doesn’t like the way the Lakers look defensively. And Magic thinks Luke Walton needs a better coaching staff. He won’t come out and say that, but that’s what I know. Magic Johnson wants to hire a better coaching staff.”

Other reports added that Walton’s coaching job with the Lakers is secure. Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times said in a tweet:

“Magic Johnson was angry in the meeting he had with Luke Walton (first reported by @wojespn and @mcten) but he doesn’t make rash decisions. Several sources told me and @BA_Turner that Luke Walton’s job is not in danger. Further, ownership still very much believes in him.”

Brad Turner from the Los Angeles Times also mentioned in a tweet that Johnson wants to see more offense from Walton. The tweet read:

“Sources close to Magic said he was stern with Luke Walton during the meeting more about not having a system in place than the wins and losses. Magic wants to see Luke have the Lakers run an offense that he has yet to see. Sources said that maybe the meeting opened Luke’s eyes.”

With all these reports about Walton’s future with the Lakers, Johnson finally made a statement to the LA Times. He said:

“[Walton] is going to finish the season. Unless something drastic happens, which it won’t.”


Not Entirely Walton’s Fault

Walton’s defense strategies and team rosters may not be working out so far, but some fans admit that the team’s 11th rank is not entirely Walton’s fault.

On October 20, the Lakers went against the Houston Rockets for their second game this season. Later on in the game, LA’s Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram were seen throwing punches at Houston’s Chris Paul.

This foul led to the suspension of all three players. Rondo was suspended for three games, and Ingram for four. The suspension of these two players caused a stir in Walton’s rotation. The coach decided to bring out Lonzo Ball to the court even though Ball was still recovering from his knee injury.

Ingram’s suspension also led to the fallout of Walton’s planned “death lineup” which would supposedly consist of Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, LeBron James, and Ingram. This was Walton’s plan of attack throughout the season.

Lakers’ shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was not of much help this season as well. With his record last season, Caldwell-Pope gave the fans high expectations for this season. However, his three-point range shooting percentage this season stood only at 22.2%, and his average points per game were just 5.9.

It is normal for coaches to make trials and errors on game strategy for the season when new players have been added to the team. Adjustments should be made accordingly as unforeseen changes will keep on coming. The team may always have foul trouble, unexpected matchups, and injuries. Walton’s slow defensive start and lack of cohesion could lead the Lakers further down the rankings if changes are not made.

Will Walton’s coaching strategies change after his meeting with Johnson? NBA fans will have to find out at the Lakers’ next game. The team will be facing the Timberwolves again on November 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.