3 Reasons why Luke Walton got the axe at Lakers
Luke Walton is gone. The Lakers released a statement on Friday stating that the organization and Walton had mutually agreed to part ways after another losing season with no play offs. Walton finishes his Lakers tenure with a record of 98-148, presiding over the second half of its longest streak without making the playoffs. Walton was many things for the Lakers, but he wasn’t the right coach for the franchisee and once again is everything that is wrong about the nepotism of the Lakers. Walton was given the job with no head coach experience, because he was young and a glue guy of sorts and supposedly knew what it meant to play the Laker way because he once played for the Lakers. Ridiculous.
Well, he is gone now and that is a good thing. Walton divided opinion among Laker fans, where some thought he was given a rough hand and given a good roster he could be a good coach. Others saw him as a failed experiment due to his inability to develop players, run a good offense and his absolutely horrible rotations and substitutions. I fall into the second category and the fact that he saw LeBron James in his team and still tried to get everyone else to handle the ball shows what he knows about coaching. Before I further this rant and include everything that is wrong with Walton in here let’s look at things that he failed at that brought this early demise.
Failure to install an offense
The Lakers fans are demanding as hell. They want championships and championships only. They are spoiled to that extent on the back of such a rich history. But with Walton’s era being preceded by one of its worst run, and the fact that the Lakers were such a young team, not much was expected from Walton in the sense of winning (at least the first two years), but the offense is a big part of the Lakers core. It doesn’t matter if its iso, pnr or high tempo, Laker fans want to enjoy watching their team play even if it doesn’t win. Just look at the fan hype once the likes of Caruso, Jemerio Jones and Jonathan Williams got a free run and started playing fun basketball.
GM LeBron and the Lakers have “parted ways” with Luke Walton 💀 pic.twitter.com/IcztzUOLMA
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) April 12, 2019
Walton failed to install any semblance of an offense for the team and no, run on fast breaks every time you get the ball isn’t an offense. You cant run on the break every possession. In fact you cant run on the break most possessions. But the Walton kept talking about playing with pace, and every time they had to play a half court set, they had no play calls. If they had one, it was one motion deep and if the failed they reverted to iso because nothing else was installed. It lead to stagnant basketball that was not fun to watch, neither was it effective with too many tough iso shots and turnovers to actually make this a winning team.
Failing to integrate LeBron James into the offense
Every team that has had LeBron James has known a few things. He has incredible vision and the fact that he is an unstoppable force, means he can score or find open teammates who are open because of LeBron’s gravity pulling in multiple defenders. First, the front office failed to recognize what most casual fans knew and signed free agents who were not shooters but in fact ball handlers. Walton may or may not have been involved in this process but seems like he was to an extent. And he ran with it. Rondo was his guy on the team and not LeBron. He decided to let the Lakers play with multiple ball handlers whose only task was to play fast and get the ball to the guy who was furthest up the court.
That is not how a LeBron offense works. And maybe a LeBron run offense isn’t fast, but it went to the NBA finals 8 consecutive times. So fast wasn’t as important as winning was, but Walton didn’t see that. Ivica Zubac who started the season with the Lakers, but ended it with the Clippers pointed out that the Lakers didn’t change anything about their offensive system once LeBron came in.They came into the new season running exact same scheme with just new guys in the system. Naturally, given that system was a bit of nothing it often failed and LeBron had to revert to becoming primary ball handler, but it wasn’t a system the coach taught other players and they often had no idea what to do once LeBron started to do his thing. Only Kyle Kuzma developed a chemistry with LeBron and to some extent so did Ingram and they benefited greatly from it, while other players stood around waiting for LeBron to do his thing and get buckets.
Hiring terrible staff on his team and failing in player development and building rotations
Walton came to Nepotism central of the NBA at the Lakers and proceeded to install his own version of it with his coaching staff. Most of his staff came from University of Arizona where Walton played college basketball for 4 years before entering the league. He brought his friends to coach the Lakers. smh.
Magic Johnson in his parting statements spoke about Luke’s failure to bulk up his staff as a reason for why Johnson advocated for his firing, before he decided he couldn’t do it and would rather fire himself. And for once he was right. The Lakers who were bottom 5 in 3% shooting in both of their last 2 seasons, did not have a shooting coach. A team this young coming right from college with different rules and regulations and that Lonzo Ball shooting mechanics did not have a shooting coach. There was also no offensive minded assistant that could develop an offensive system for the team that sorely needed one.
Then there’s roster management and player development. The Lakers have a solid scouting department, headed by Jesse Buss, that has done a terrific job of identifying talent and getting them on the Lakers. Right from Julius Randle to Jemerio Jones, the Lakers haven’t gotten the wrong personnel, but Walton did nothing with it. His staff has been one of the worst in the NBA at developing young players and both D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle had career years across the board after leaving the Lakers. All of these faults spring from not having a good staff that can focus on different aspects of coaching a team.
Roster management was probably what Luke was worst at. He made his rotations for the season and it didnt seem to matter to him if a player was spitting fire on the court, if the rotation said his time was up, his time was up. Far too often he sat players who were red hot and replaced them with players who buried the momentum. He gave Julius Randle limited minutes all of last season when Randle was having a terrific season, because he could not adjust on the fly. Same with Rondo this season, who would win the worst defensive player of the year if there was such an award. Rondo kept getting major minutes when the likes of Caruso accumulated DNP’s because Luke couldn’t recognize the effect Rondo had on the defense, where minutes without Rondo ranks the Lakers defense in the top-10 while with him, it comes down to bottom-3.
All in all, one half of the Laker fandom is extremely pleased with this departure and looks like the Sacramento Kangz, in all glory are going to be the next team Luke Walton takes over. I hope it works out for both of them, but.. Actually no. I hope it doesn’t work out for either of them. Kings are idiots to let Joerger go after way overachieving this season and Walton, we he’s just not a good a coach so don’t see how this works out for him unless he fixes his mistakes and hires 10 new people into his staff to shore up his deficiencies.