The Los Angeles Lakers have parted ways with head coach Luke Walton after 3 seasons, according to the team. Former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue may be next.
The winds of change are at gale force in L.A., as the Los Angeles Lakers have “mutually agreed to part ways” with head coach Luke Walton after three seasons.
The Lakers made the announcement Friday afternoon, with general manager Rob Pelinka — the organization’s top personnel executive with the departure earlier this week of president of basketball operations Magic Johnson — wishing Walton well.
“We would like to thank Luke for his dedicated service over the last three years. We wish Luke and his family the best of luck moving forward.”
Walton was hired by the Lakers in 2016 after Byron Scott piloted the iconic franchise to its worst season ever, a 17-65 train wreck in Kobe Bryant’s final season.
Walton came to L.A. after two seasons as an assistant to Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors, leading the team to a 39-4 record as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, numbers that are not included in Walton’s official coaching record.
The Lakers showed steady improvement in three seasons under Walton, but after Magic made a big splash in free agency last summer in landing LeBron James, the Lakers were seen to have underachieved in 2018-19, finishing well out of the playoff hunt at 37-45.
The team was 26-56 in Walton’s first season in 2016-17 before improving to 35-47 in 2017-18.
The Lakers battled health problems for much of the season, with only Kentavious Caldwell-Pope playing in all 82 games.
James missed 27 games — a career-high — with a groin injury, point guard Lonzo Ball played in only 47 games because of ankle problems and wing Brandon Ingram was out for 30 games after being diagnosed with a deep venous thrombosis that required surgery.
After adding James to the mix, Johnson went on a signing frenzy which left the roster an odd jumble of aging veterans and young lottery picks that lacked shooters — the Lakers were 29th in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 33.3 percent this season.
Through it all, the Lakers were 20-14 after beating the Warriors in Oakland on Christmas Day, the game in which James was initially injured. L.A. was just 17-31 the rest of the way as James missed 17 games and was in and out of the lineup until he was shut down for the season in late March.
Speculation is already centering on James’ former coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tyronn Lue, who was fired by the Cavs after an 0-6 start to the second post-LeBron era.
The Lakers face a tumultuous offseason. The club is likely to resume its pursuit of New Orleans Pelcians star Anthony Davis and there are premier free agents such at Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to chase as well.
The team enters the offseason with seven players on expiring contracts — Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Mike Muscala, Lance Stephenson, Reggie Bullock, JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler — and face a decision this fall on a potential rookie-scale extension for Ingram.
Two days into the offseason and the Lakers are down a team president and a head coach as the franchise continues to struggle to right itself nearly seven years after the Dwight Howard-Steve Nash experiment went bust.