When the Los Angeles Lakers hired Luke Walton as head coach, he was inheriting a team that had gone an abysmal 17-65 the season prior, missed the NBA playoffs for a third consecutive year and was firmly in a rebuilding process.
Walton helped the Lakers increase their win total by nine games in each of his first two seasons as the team showed growth behind a developing young core of players. Of course, the Lakers were also positioning themselves for a big 2018 free agency and that paid off with the signing of LeBron James.
His arrival immediately changed expectations, even if the most reasonable ones still did not have the Lakers as a championship contender. From the front office to the players, patience was preached heading into the season.
However, less than 10 games into the year, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson reportedly met with Walton to discuss the team’s slow start, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin:
In a meeting on Tuesday following a winless two-game trip, Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson admonished coach Luke Walton for the team’s sluggish start to the season, league sources told ESPN.
The Lakers were 2-5 at the time of the reported meeting between Johnson and Walton. They snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating the Dallas Mavericks, though it was a game that saw L.A. blow a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter and nearly require overtime.
Walton believed the team learned from the close contest and would be better for it moving forward. He went into the season with plenty of reassurances from Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka that the team would be given time to gel.
“I know we will struggle in the beginning because so many guys haven’t played with each other, don’t know each other, and that whole thing,” Johnson said in September.
“As we were talking to Luke, we said, ‘Don’t worry about if we get off to a bad start.’ We’ve seen that with LeBron going to Miami. We’ve seen that when he came back to Cleveland. You’re going to struggle because there’s so many moving parts but eventually we’re going to get it and we’re going to be a really good team.”
The Lakers opened the season 0-3 and though they’ve suffered five losses in eight games, each has been by 10 points or less; with the last two both being by four points.