As LeBron James looks to return to the court after a prolonged absence because of a groin injury, those closest to him are looking for someone other than Luke Walton to be the head coach of the Lakers. In an exchange on the Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said that LeBron’s camp hasn’t exactly been quiet about wanting a coaching change in Los Angeles.
MacMullan: “There’s a lot of tension in that building. A lot of tension in that building, and I think people are wondering about Luke Walton even though Jeanie Buss came out very strongly and said ‘I want Luke to be here, I back him 100 percent,’ but then also made the point that has to be made, and that’s that she hired Earvin Magic Johnson to make these decisions, and if Earvin feels differently she gave him the power to make those kinds of decisions. It’s clear to me, and probably to you Brian, that LeBron’s camp would prefer a coaching change. They’re not too subtle about that. I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t.”
Windhorst: “Of course, LeBron publicly hasn’t talked in a month.”
MacMullan: “Not LeBron, but all the people around LeBron, and they’ve made it known. I don’t think this a shock, is it? For me to say this?”
Windhorst: “That’s a fair thing to say. That’s a fair thing to say.”
LeBron’s ability to cause coaching turmoil within the franchises he’s been a part of has become a regular staple of his career over the better part of the past decade. He unsuccessfully tried to get Erik Spoelstra fired when he joined the Heat, and he pushed the Cavs to fire David Blatt when he went back home to Cleveland. Sure, it’s unfair for Walton to be seen as a weak link when all evidence shows that LeBron might be the only actually good player on the team, but, like Spoelstra and Blatt, he’s stuck at a disadvantage with not being a LeBron-selected guy.
What’s more interesting about the exchange on the podcast, however, is how MacMullan and Windhorst treat this information. Given everything the two know about what’s going on, both reporters agreed that it’s no surprise that the most famous basketball player in the world’s camp is actively pushing for an NBA coach to be fired. But this should still be considered somewhat of a revelation. When a reporter as highly respected as MacMullan presents this kind of information as fact—and someone as connected as Windhorst basically confirms it—the idea that LeBron might be responsible for his third attempt at a coaching change goes from an unfounded assumption to a harsh reality. Plus, even if LeBron hasn’t said anything publicly in a while about this, this decision is still LeBron’s by extension because it’s hard to imagine a player as meticulous about his image as he is allowing his camp to talk like this without some internal approval. If this was all known information, you have to wonder why nothing had been said about it until now.
MacMullan probably hasn’t contracted Windhorst-brain, meaning that she chose to keep this information under wraps on purpose to protect her connections, so it’s probably a sign that LeBron has shaped the narrative of his career well enough that people discount these moments as par for the course.