When the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James in free agency, it indirectly put a significant amount of pressure and attention on head coach Luke Walton. Fair or not, James has developed a reputation of being the reason coaches have lost their job.
Add to it that Walton was not selected by the current Lakers front office, and it was reasonable to expect he’d face a heavy dose of scrutiny this season. That became a reality as the Lakers struggled out of the gate.
Their flawed roster exposed issues and suspensions exacerbated them, but it was Walton who took the brunt of the blame. So much so that Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson reportedly admonished him during a meeting seven games into the season.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has regularly voiced public support of Walton, but questions about his job security have nevertheless persisted.
Now it appears the Lakers may have zeroed in a potential replacement, as Ric Bucher explained on the “Bucher and Friends” podcast that there’s mutual interest with Jason Kidd:
“There’s another development that I’m hearing is gaining momentum, and that’s the possibility of Jason Kidd returning to the coaching ranks by succeeding Luke Walton with the Lakers. Now, I first heard Kidd’s name connected with the Lakers a while back. Right about the time the first round of, ‘Is Luke Walton on the hot seat?’ stories came out. Jeanie Buss, head of the Lakers, threw a bucket of water on that seat, cooled it off. And so I tucked away the talk of Kidd and the Lakers as something at the time, simply spitballing or connecting dots that weren’t necessarily part of the same mosaic. Now, I know that Kidd wants to coach again. And I know he expressed interest in the Knicks job before David Fizdale ultimately got it. … In the case of Jason and the Lakers, I figured it was a matter of Jason letting them know he was interested, and the Lakers saying, ‘Thanks, we’ll get back to you.’ Well, now sources are saying that the Lakers have actually gotten back to him and this has gone to the next level. And if the Lakers do make a move on Luke, which based on all of the rumblings could happen sooner rather than later, Kidd appears to be very much in the mix and possibly is even the favorite.”
Kidd coached one season with the Brooklyn Nets, then three full years with the Milwaukee Bucks before getting fired 45 games into a fourth.
For all the support Buss has given Walton, she recently stopped short of guaranteeing he would finish the season as head coach. Buss instead deferred the question to Johnson, who has been given control of all basketball-related matters.
In the aftermath of his meeting with Walton, Johnson said the Lakers would not look to make a change at head coach unless something ‘drastic’ occurred during the season. Johnson declined to elaborate or define what would qualify as such.
The Lakers head into play Thursday 26-25 and tied with the Sacramento Kings for ninth place in the Western Conference. They were 2.5 games back of first after routing the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, but injuries to James and Rondo sent the team into a free fall.
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