Duarte: "Foregone Conclusion" Walton Will Be Fired

Someone has to "fall on the sword" for the Lakers' failed season, Michael Duarte says, and it's going to be Luke Walton

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
March 26, 2019 - 9:55 am
Luke Walton Lakers Head Coach

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The Los Angeles Lakers have underachieved this season. Despite acquiring LeBron James, they will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year – and someone is going to pay for it.

“Internally, it is a foregone conclusion that Luke Walton will be out,” NBC LA Lakers reporter Michael Duarte said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It may even be April 10, the day after the final day of the season. But somebody has to fall on the sword, and I think it’s going to be Luke Walton.”

It appears Walton and James did not mesh this season. Why? Was it Walton’s lack of head-coaching experience?

Duarte says no.

“Tyronn Lue didn’t have experience when he took over the head-coaching job for the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Duarte said. “But what GM David Griffin said at the time was he was a guy that could tell LeBron James what he needed to hear – not necessarily what he wanted to hear, but what he needed to hear – and that LeBron would listen to him. There was a respect factor there, a mutual respect factor there. It’s not there with Luke Walton.”

Duarte has seen this lack of respect firsthand.

“I’ve seen it time and time again on the sidelines during games,” he said. “Luke shouting out orders to LeBron, or LeBron not liking a decision to take him out of the game, and LeBron arguing with him live on the court. What LeBron needs – and where Jason Kidd could come into play – is a coach that he respects that he will listen to. He may not be the best at Xs and Os or drawing plays out of timeouts or drawing out-of-bounds plays. But when you have LeBron James, he’s almost like a second-tier coach on the court. 

“So if you have a guy that can implement a culture that the players respect, a guy that’s been there before, a guy that’s played in the Finals, a guy that commands the respect of everybody on the team and it trickles down through LeBron, he definitely could be a guy that could command LeBron James’ attention and respect and hopefully help them on the court.”

Walton, though, is not solely responsible for the Lakers’ woes.

“Blame can be pointed around,” Duarte said. “You can blame the injuries for sure. You can blame LeBron James’ 18-game injury – one of the longest in his career. You can blame the players they put around LeBron James. LeBron has needed shooters around him throughout his career. That’s why he’s been so successful – because he garners a lot of (defensive) attention, and he likes to be able to dish it out to guys on the perimeter who are shooters.”

in other words, not Rajon Rondo.

“I think there’s a lot of finger-blaming right now,” Duarte said, “and I think the question now is how do you solve it going into the offseason?”