The Los Angeles Lakers have had their ups-and-downs early in this 2018-19 NBA season and currently sit at the seventh spot of the Western Conference with a record of 11-9. At times, we’ve seen the new-look Lakers struggle with identity, individual roles, and defensive assignments. Many analysts have stated that the Lakers will become more cohesive as time moves forward but it appears there’s a new allegation on the horizon that turn the 16x NBA Championship franchise upside down.
According to a recent report by Brian Windhorst of ESPN, Lebron James has been intentionally ignoring Luke Walton’s play calls during offensive sets by playing the point guard role and running his own offensive without acknowledging his head coach.
There’s no denying that Lebron James has been playing the role of point guard more in the absence of Rajon Rondo when he’s on the court. And with him in the point guard slot, it has drastically affected the development of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, and the rest of the Lakers young core. But, is this by design, out of selfishness of Lebron James? It is according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
Magic Johnson Denies The Narrative of Lebron Ignoring Luke Walton
An excerpt from Windhorst’s article eludes to the fact that Lebron James is refusing to look in Walton’s direction when he gains possession of the ball and takes lead in running the Lakers’ offense. The passage that’s been getting a lot of attention reads,
“The scouts also have noticed that when James is running the point, he rarely looks toward the bench to receive play calls from coach Luke Walton. Even when he has seen them, the scouts say, he ignores them and runs the play he prefers. Walton has adjusted, and now when James is running the show, Walton will typically just let him call the game. This probably shouldn’t be considered a slight — it’s just James being James.”
Windhorst’s claims have caused quite a stir in the Lakers’ front office that the general manager himself, Magic Johnson, has come forward to deny these allegations. Johnson called into the SiriusXM NBA radio channel to clear the air stating,
“Brian got it wrong. This is all about making sure that they can say something on ESPN and everybody can just talk… We have a system the ball moves around, a lot of pick-and-roll plays. If you watch us play, the ball is not in LeBron James’ hands all of the time. It can’t be. Because you want to pass it around, you want to get into your pick-and-roll plays. But hey, we’re the Lakers, people are going to be talking about us. But that’s not how it’s going right now.”
Usually whatever Magic Johnson claims to be true is often true. And whatever he chooses to come to fruition usually ends up happening in his favor so, we have a good feeling there is no on-court tension between Lebron James and head coach, Luke Walton.
However, the Lakers really should reconsider letting Lebron James play the point down the stretch in close games. Often times, the offense becomes stagnant, the ball stops moving, and Laker players end up becoming disengaged from the game. James’ ideology of hero ball worked in the Eastern Conference but in the Western Conference, a single team’s talent is often evenly distributed and ego is less of a factor for these ball clubs providing them with the advantage late in close games.
As the season moves forward, the Los Angeles Lakers will need to find a healthy alternative than to let Lebron James dribble the ball for 18-seconds and either take a deep three or pass it to a teammate with no time left on the shot clock. Hopefully, Walton will be able to coherently communicate this fact before it’s too late and the Lakers possibly end up on the outside looking in of the Western Conference playoff picture.