You’d be hard-pressed to still find people that rip on LeBron James. But among those that do criticize the greatest basketball player of this generation, the refrains are always similar: he’s a coach killer, he ignores authority, he does whatever he damn well wants on the court.
A new report from ESPN is sure to feed ammunition to that corner of the basketball lexicon. According to Brian Windhorst, James is already ignoring play calls from Lakers coach Luke Walton, and has gone rogue on several occasions while running the offense.
“When James is running the point, he rarely looks toward the bench to receive play calls from coach Luke Walton,” Windhorst wrote. “Even when he has seen them, the scouts say, he ignores them and runs the play he prefers.
“Walton has adjusted, and now when James is running the show, Walton will typically just let him call the game. This probably shouldn’t be considered a slight — it’s just James being James.”
The marriage between James and the 38-year-old Walton was destined to be an awkward one. Walton was brought in two years ago to oversee a rebuild, and orchestrate an offense that centered around Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and eventually Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.
When James showed up in Los Angeles, that plan immediately became a lot murkier. Just 20 games into the season, it seems Walton is falling into the bucket of David Blatt and Mike Brown: coaches who couldn’t hold authority over the sharpest basketball mind on the planet.
Walton has been an NBA head coach for all of two years. He was an instrumental figure in the offensive system that turned the Golden State Warriors into a dynasty, but he’s younger than some active NBA players.
It seems like Walton’s hold on the head coaching job was already feeling tenuous eight games into the season. Walton was “admonished” by team president Magic Johnson – even after he was previously told not to worry if the team got off to a slow start.
Since that 3-5 start, the Lakers have won six of ten games to somewhat steady the ship, but it remains unclear how steady Walton’s hold on the job is.