Los Angeles Lakers: Stop placing the blame on Luke Walton
by Anthony Santillo
The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled without LeBron James, but the blame should not be placed on head coach Luke Walton.
2019 has not gotten off to a great start for the Los Angeles Lakers. My 2019 New Years Resolution was to try and eliminate my time spent on social media by 50% and within the first week that has failed miserably, getting off to as good a start as the Lakers.
The reason for this can be accredited to the amount of backlash I have been seeing Luke Walton receive since LeBron James got injured in the Christmas Day game against the Golden State Warriors.
I don’t like to just read someone’s opinion about a topic and just brush it off and pretend they don’t matter. I like to think everyone has an opinion worth listening to.
So, when I see these things, I will dig deep into the credibility of their statement and what they are using to validate what they are saying. In regards to all of the Luke Walton criticism, none of them have had worthy facts to support their fallacious statement.
Since LeBron got injured, the Lakers are 1-3 (I am not including the Christmas Day game) and people are, for some reason, pointing the finger at Luke. Now, I know the coach is usually the first to blame when teams aren’t winning. However, this isn’t one of those cases.
First off, all three of those losses came to teams that are either currently or were at the time they played, in the Western Conference Playoff picture, including the Oklahoma City Thunder who has the second best record in the West.
How can people be that upset with Luke, or the entire team for that matter, about losing to three good teams when your best player and only All-Star (sorry Kuzma but even if you make it this year, you aren’t one yet), your veteran backup point guard and vocal leader and starting center (JaVale came back for the last two games) are all hurt?
How is that fair to anyone to be upset that the Lakers are losing in very competitive games without the greatest basketball player in the world on their team and no other All-Stars around him?
I think the fact that they are even putting up a fight in these games means we should be praising Luke. In the three losses without LeBron, their average margin of defeat is about six points. Pretty impressive when you look at who they are putting on the court to compete with these teams.
This is basically the 2017-18 Lakers team with JaVale McGee at center instead of Brook Lopez. However, the biggest difference obviously is LeBron.
Now, even though he’s not playing, the young payers have spent the entire season thus far deferring to him and changing their games to be able to play with Lebron. Now that he’s out, all of them are expected to step their games up to be the primary scorers, facilitators, and defenders.
Last season, there was no one to defer to so they had been playing in the same roles all season long. For a player to change their role almost halfway through the season is no easy task, especially when you know there’s only a finite amount of games you will have this new role for since LeBron, hopefully, won’t be out much longer.
It’s hard to continue to play at a high level and compete when your best player gets injured. Take any team in the NBA right now and take their superstar off the team and see how they look in the first few games.
It won’t be pretty. Look at what happened with the Golden State Warriors when Stephen Curry got hurt earlier this year. People were ready to hit the panic button and that might be the greatest team the NBA will ever see. Let’s not forget this.
Fans should be happy this team is going out and competing. The young guys are stepping their games up, the vets are taking over leadership, and Luke is keeping this ship above water and that’s all we can ask for right now.
LeBron is expected to be about at least another week and the Lakers don’t play a team above .500 for in that span: Knicks, Wolves, Mavs, Pistons, Jazz, and the Cavs. Asking for them to win all of those might seem a little immoderate but taking four of the six is definitely reasonable. That’s more than enough to keep us afloat in the Western Playoff hunt.
All in all, Luke has helped turned this young, lost team into a defensive-minded, showtime experience that fans get to actually enjoy watching, which has been rare for the last half-decade. They are still top-10 in the league in defensive efficiency, opponent FG%, and defensive +/- with LeBron and Rondo out and don’t expect that to change per NBA.com.
So please, all of you out there who are putting blame on Luke and stating he should be fired, please stop tweeting and actually watch the game so I can try and keep my resolution and not nitpick your radical solutions to a team that is doing fine considering their current predicament.