When LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the potential storylines was when head coach Luke Walton would wind up on the hot seat. After all, James has been labeled a ‘coach killer’ during his time with the Miami Heat and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While James eventually won two championships despite an at-times contentious relationship with head coach Erik Spoelstra, head coach David Blatt was fired midway through his second season with the Cavs.
“My message to the players was, this is what we talked about. We know this is going to happen,” Walton said after Thursday’s practice.
“Every time we go on a losing streak, there’s going to be stories out there and distractions out there. It’s our choice to either hang onto those or stay present and focus our energy and time on what we can do to get better.
“We talked about that before the season even started. Here’s the first one, right? Let’s handle it as a group, not give it life and work on what we need to work on.”
For Walton who played with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and coached multiple All-Stars as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, he has been through these type of situations. As James’ arrival naturally brings high expectations, the third-year head coach is well-prepared.
Although Walton has been criticized for his inconsistent rotations, the Lakers do have eight new players as Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo were suspended. In the win against the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers barely escaped, but showed improvements with their rebounding and defense.