The Los Angeles Lakers missed a franchise-recording sixth straight NBA Playoffs this season, even with the addition of Lebron James. This had led to rampant speculation about the future of current head coach Luke Walton and his potential replacements.
Silver Screen and Roll’s Harrison Faigen tweeted out Bet Online’s newest odds on the next year’s coach. The leader is current Heat assistant Juwan Howard, a former teammate of James during his time in Miami. The odds are 4/1 at the moment.
Howard’s connections don’t stop with James. He was also a part of Michigan’s Fab Five from 1991-1993. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka came off the bench for the Wolverines as a 3-point specialist.
The next two highest odds are former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue and Walton at 7/1. Lue won Cleveland’s first NBA title with James in 2016.
As Christian Rivas of SB Nation points out, Howard specializes in player development and defense. The Lakers young core of Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball would theoretically benefit from this hire. The Lakers need a boost on defense, as it currently ranks No. 22 in the league by allowing over 113 points a game.
Hired by the Heat almost immediately after he retired in 2013, Howard got his coaching career started in player development. Almost six years later, Howard is still working in player development and also serves as the team’s defensive coordinator. The Heat have a had a top-10 ranked defense in each of the last three seasons, and are currently ranked seventh in the league in defensive rating.
He’s also earned a reputation for being hard on anyone, including his son that plays for the University of Detroit-Mercy.
“We were doing a drill and his son did something,” Heat guard Josh Richardson said. “He came over like, ‘Junior! Stop taking it easy! Go again!’ I mean, just a little bit father-and-son stuff. It’s funny to watch.”
Just a father demanding the same level of professionalism that carried him through a 19-year career that ended with a Heat championship glow.
“I recall last summer, when we had him for last year’s summer league,” Howard said of his son, “and I was talking to the coaching staff, one thing they always said was, ‘Wow, you’re really hard on Junior.’ And it’s like, I guess, a natural reaction. But I just hope that he always remembers that, hey, first, I love him, but that I’m going to hold him in the same standards like I hold everyone else.”
The final selling point for Faigen is that Lebron would buy into Howard more than Walton. For what it’s worth, James holds 500/1 odds to be a player-coach next season.
“Also, let’s say Howard has a similar resume to Luke,” Faigen tweeted, “but the main difference is that LeBron buys in. That’s not nothing! It probably shouldn’t be the main reason to hire a coach, but it certainly shouldn’t work against them.”
Yahoo’s Chris Haynes suggested Walton would be let go at the end of the season, while Lakers owner Jeannie Buss said last week that she wouldn’t get in the way of a potential firing.