“Yeah, we’re not going to fire him,” Johnson told ESPN after the Lakers fell behind 41-10 in the first quarter on Sunday before losing to the Toronto Raptors 121-107 at home. “[The meeting last week with Walton] wasn’t even a meeting about that. We just have to be better, and that was it.”
Johnson first told the Los Angeles Times earlier on Sunday that he planned to keep Walton as head coach barring a drastic circumstance taking place this season.
Asked Sunday night what drastic can be defined as, Johnson politely declined to go into detail.
Luke Walton met with reporters hours after ESPN reported that Magic Johnson admonished the Lakers coach following a winless two-game trip. Walton said he feels he has a “great relationship with management.”
Lakers president Magic Johnson admonished coach Luke Walton as the new-look roster featuring LeBron James has gotten off to a sluggish start.
“No, not going into that,” Johnson said with a laugh. “He’s our coach, we supporting him, and that’s it.”
Johnson’s support for Walton comes two days after ESPN reported that the Lakers president of basketball operations chided Walton in a meeting following the Lakers’ two road losses at San Antonio and Minnesota and their 2-5 start.
Johnson said the meeting was not about Walton’s future but rather about how the Lakers had been playing during the rocky start to their campaign.
“Yeah, it was,” Johnson said when asked if the meeting was positive and necessary. “We’re last in defense. We got to get better.”
Johnson could not have been happy with what he saw in the first quarter on Sunday, when the Lakers fell behind 41-10 and trailed 42-17 at the end of the quarter to Toronto, which was playing without Kawhi Leonard. Entering Sunday, the Lakers had never been outscored by more than 24 points in a first quarter in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Lakers made a late run but could not overcome the gap.
Prior to the Toronto loss, Walton said he had received messages of support from different corners but that it did not help or affect how he continues to approach his job in his third season as head coach.
“I have my job to coach this team and the support is nice, obviously, whether it is coming from my dad or it is coming from another coach,” Walton said. “It’s nice, but it doesn’t change what I am doing as far as the job and coaching this team and these players. It doesn’t influence that at all.”
“My job is hard, but it is a lot of fun,” added Walton when asked if the news of his meeting with Johnson coming out made his job any harder. “I love my job. And nothing changed. It didn’t get any harder. Prepping for Portland [on Saturday] is never easy, but we went about our business the same we always do.”
When asked what his father, Bill Walton, said to him, the coach replied, “That he loves and supports me no matter what.”
Johnson repeatedly said during the summer that patience was required with so many new pieces, especially if there was a slow start. Johnson cited LeBron James’ slow starts when he first joined the Miami Heat and when he returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Johnson said he told Walton not to worry if there was a turbulent start in Los Angeles.
The Lakers won two straight after Johnson’s meeting with Walton, but they had to desperately hold on after nearly blowing big double-digit leads in the fourth quarter to the Dallas Mavericks at home and at Portland in the victories.
Following their first win in 17 attempts against the Trail Blazers on Saturday evening, the Lakers opened their home game on Sunday looking like a team that was drained from the night before.
The Lakers next face the Minnesota Timberwolves at home on Wednesday.