Late last week, according to an ESPN report, Lakers Coach Luke Walton’s seat was getting a little warm, and team President Magic Johnson was the one who warmed it during a meeting in which he “admonished” Walton for the team’s slow start using an “aggressive” tone. Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, described the meeting as “a tense interaction,” with Johnson shouting and cursing at Walton and at one point chiding the coach for interrupting him.
The Lakers split the two games that followed Friday’s report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, the latter contest a 121-107 home loss to the Raptors on Sunday that saw Los Angeles fall behind 41-10 after less than 10 minutes. Still Johnson now has come out publicly to state that Walton’s job is safe, for now.
“I said it, Luke took it, and we’re all good,” Johnson told Ganguli before Sunday’s game. “It’s no big deal.”
“He’s going to finish the season,” Johnson continued. “Unless something drastic happens, which it won’t.”
After Sunday’s game, Johnson was asked what he meant by “drastic.” Like, say, falling behind 41-10 in the first quarter at home, even though LeBron James is on your team and Kawhi Leonard wasn’t playing for the Raptors because of a sore foot?
“No, not going into that,” Johnson said with a laugh, per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “He’s our coach, we supporting him, and that’s it.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Sunday’s game marked the first time in the shot-clock era that the Lakers had been outscored by more than 24 points in a first quarter.
The Lakers were able to beat Portland on Saturday, snapping a 16-game losing streak to the Trail Blazers and winning in Oregon for the first time since March 2014. James made sure to salute Walton and his assistants after that game.
“It’s great to win, period,” James said when asked if it felt good to win for Walton, per Ganguli. “Listen, coaching staff put us in a position to win, and it’s up to us to go up and execute. Luke can care less about what’s going on outside; we could as well.”
Los Angeles then went out the next night and laid an absolute egg at home against the Raptors, even with Leonard in street clothes.
“They just came out and hit us right in the mouth,” James told reporters. “It’s going to be very, very hard to make a game out of that when you’re trying to expend so much energy trying to get back in it.”
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