Johnson "admonished" Walton in a meeting about the team's slow start, ESPN reports, and people within the organization wonder if Walton's time leading the team may be up. L.A.'s one-point win over the Mavericks on Wednesday night might give Walton some breathing room, and with a difficult three-game road trip on the horizon, league sources told ESPN they feared Walton's tenure was in jeopardy.
Owner Jeanie Buss heard of the meeting between Magic and Walton, but sources tell ESPN Luke enjoys "unwavering support" from Buss. Johnson and current GM Rob Pelinka were brought in less than a year after Walton signed away from his gig as assistant coach with the Warriors.
The tone of Magic contrasts what Johnson said a couple of months ago about the patience they'd take with an overhauled roster. "As I was talking to Luke (with Pelinka), we said don't worry about if we get out to a bad start," Johnson explained to reporters in September. "We have seen that with LeBron going to Miami, and we have seen that when he came back to Cleveland. He is going to struggle because there are so many new moving parts. But eventually we are going to get it, and we are going to be a really good team."
While Magic's magnificent smile is large part of his NBA iconography, ESPN's reporting reveals he's tough as nails on those within the Lakers' organization, specifically Walton and the coaching staff:
Throughout his tenure with the Lakers, Johnson has earned an internal reputation for an often-time volatile management style, including with his handling of Walton and the coaching staff, sources said.
Walton's future as coach was already shrouded in some mystery when reports surfaced that LeBron never spoke with him during his recruitment by Magic and Pelinka. On top of that, LeBron was consulted on the controversial moves Magic and Co. made this season when signing a string of veterans perceived as knuckleheads to one-year deals.
Despite the report and bad omen, Luke Walton told reporters on Friday that he feels like he has a "great relationship with management" and seemed confident that he'll be sticking around.
"I feel like I'm down here to do my job and coach," Walton said. "And I don't feel like I'm going anywhere."
The Lakers will likely make assistant Brian Shaw the interim head coach if Walton does gets terminated.