LOS ANGELES – A turbulent week for the Los Angeles Lakers continued as the team announced it had split on Friday from head coach Luke Walton.
The move took place only three days after Magic Johnson had left the franchise by shocking decision to resign on Tuesday night as president of basketball operations. Walton finished his third season as head coach with a frustrating and disappointing record of 37-45 in a season that began with tremendous expectations following the arrival of LeBron James.
Former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams, assistant to Philadelphia 76ers, are the focus of Lakers search candidates to replace Walton, sources from the league, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said. Lakers general director Rob Pelinka will conduct the search, a source opposite Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
Lue, who played for the Lakers from 1
Walton leaves the Lakers with two years remaining five-year contract.
"We would like to thank Luke for his dedication over the past three years," Pelinka said in a team statement. "We wish Luke and his family all the best for the future."
Who suits this team best? That depends on the future of the roster and the priorities of the Lakers.
Jeanie Buss has every reason to be more creative with Magic Johnson's replacement.
Walton, who in his three years between 98 and 148 went seasons as a head coach thanked the franchise and domination owner Jeanie Buss, who was a staunch follower of Walton.
"I want to thank Jeanie Buss and the Buss family for giving me the opportunity to train the Lakers," Walton said. "This franchise and the city will always be special for me and my family."
The Lakers had casual talks with Walton's representatives on Wednesday discussing whether there was a way forward, several sources told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. However, the talks did not go very far, as it was apparent to both sides that the Lakers were planning to face Walton before Johnson's sudden resignation on Tuesday night.
When James and his agent Rich Paul met with Johnson and Pelinka On Saturday, sources said, according to Shelburne, it was an exit interview for LeBron's season and Walton was absent.
Many executives, coaches and agents had been speculating about Walton's safety at work since the start of the season, not only because the Lakers had a flawed list, but also because Walton was not hired by Johnson and Pelinka. Walton was hired in 2016 by former Lakers Executive Vice President Jim Buss and then General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
Steve Kerr believes Luke shares Walton and Kerr, which loses Los Angeles's farewell to Walton.
Johnson declined in his decision to resign that he was considering shooting Walton on Wednesday when the Lakers held their initial interviews, but did not "disappoint" Jeanie Buss and wanted to get in the way of her relationship with Walton, injuring his own Relationship with Buss.
He was tasked with mixing a squadron constructed with eclectic veterans in one-year contracts, and a core group of young people still learning to play with James, with a plethora of ball-handlers, but not enough to shoot, Walton had What many considered the most daunting job in the NBA.
While Johnson preached patience in the preseason, knowing it would take a while for the new squad to mesh, Johnson Walton warned only six games in the season in a meeting. The Hall of Fame point-keeper was upset over the team's defense and slow start, but later told the Los Angeles Times and ESPN that Walton would not be fired with anything inadvertently. However, Johnson said his relationship with Walton was fine after the incident he considered excessive.
Walton had the Lakers come together on Christmas night after a blowout victory at Golden State on April 20, Rand. The wheels, however, were spectacular when James and Rajon Rondo were injured during the match, leaving the Lakers in a dizzying state they would never recover from.
Suspensions, injuries, endless drama, inexcusable losses from the subsistence teams, and even a buffet of dishes on the field – enough to provide the Internet with ammunition to set up a "one-shining moment" parody – stifled the season the Lakers and condemned Walton. Walton would lose Lonzo Ball (ankle) and Brandon Ingram (clots in the shoulder) to seasonal injuries when the Lakers James, Ingram and Ball had a total of 23 games together, reaching 15-8 in that time period. Overall, Lakers players missed more than 210 games due to injury, and the team used more than 25 different grid positions this season.
"They came to work every day, no matter what criticism they were under, no matter what control they were under, they came in, watched movies for hours, whether it was about us or other teams, about next opponents " Josh Hart said Wednesday about Walton and his staff. "You did everything right, I say that. Obviously it was frustrating, the injuries, the inability to maintain a constant lineup, were frustrating and hard for them."
Rondo, who is in the sixth team of his career, praised Walton for his ability to connect with players.
"He has many great tendencies for a young coach that some coaches probably will not develop their entire lives or their entire careers," Rondo said Wednesday. "He was fun, he was a damn good coach, and I just told him that I had a great time learning from him this year and the challenge he put me this year."
Now, for the fifth time since Phil Jackson sat on Lakers' bench for the last time in 2010/11, the Lakers will be looking for a new head coach to try to revive the proud franchise and head off to the postseason for the first time bring season 2012-13.