Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball, Luke Walton dispute LaVar Ball’s assertion that Walton has lost team
Lonzo Ball also said, “I’ll play for anybody,” when the rookie point guard was asked whether he is fine with Walton as his coach.
Ball’s comments came after his father, LaVar, told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.”
“He’s a grown man,” Ball said of his father’s comments following the Lakers’ shootaround at Staples Center. “Like I said, he is going to say what he wants to say. I can’t [do] nothing about it.”
“My job is to play basketball,” Ball said when asked about having a preference for playing for certain coaches. “I don’t decide who coaches.”
Walton disagreed with LaVar’s latest criticism of the Lakers coach, whose team has lost 12 of its past 13 games. Walton, who said on Friday morning that he is not coaching as if his job is on the line, was asked whether he has received assurances from anyone in Lakers upper management.
“Yeah. We’re, I feel, very secure in my job status right now,” Walton said. “We talk all the time. They’re 100 percent behind and supporting what we’re doing.”
Lakers majority owner Jeanie Buss tweeted strong support with the hashtag “InLukeWeTrust” on New Year’s Eve, and all indications have been that Walton’s job security is not an issue. A Lakers source told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Walton’s job status is “not even a conversation.”
This, though, is not the first time LaVar Ball has been critical of Walton’s coaching. The elder Ball has said that the Lakers’ coaching staff is “soft” and doesn’t know how to coach his son, and he expressed his displeasure with how Walton was using his son in the fourth quarter of games.
The Lakers already have held a meeting with the elder Ball and asked him to tone down his criticisms of Walton to foster a better atmosphere for Lonzo Ball and continue a positive relationship with the organization.
LaVar Ball’s latest comments left the No. 2 overall pick having to answer several questions on Sunday morning about the state of the Lakers’ locker room and his relationship with Walton.
“He is going to speak his mind, he is not going to change,” said Lonzo Ball, who says he hasn’t spoken to LaVar since his father and two brothers landed in Lithuania, where LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are playing for the pro team Prienu Vytautas.”… I don’t think [Walton has lost the locker room]. I mean, he’s our head coach. We are going to play for him.
“That is just his opinion. He has coached me his whole life. So he is definitely going to have a strong opinion about it. That’s just what it is.”
The Lakers (11-27) were competitive to start the season, going 8-10 in their first 18 games. They held a team meeting on Dec. 28 to air out myriad issues, from players who were unhappy about roles, minutes and rotations, to the direction the team is taking with its focus on signing two star free agents next summer.
“I don’t see that the players aren’t playing hard,” Walton said. “I think the players are playing very hard, we’ve been through a hard stretch, but they are giving us what they have and we’re going to keep working and we’ll be fine.”
“I’m fine with it, it doesn’t bother me,” Walton said of LaVar Ball’s repeated criticism of him. “My only concern with any of it is for Zo. As long as Zo’s fine with it and Zo can come out and play, and it doesn’t affect mine and his relationship, then it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Lonzo Ball said he just focuses on playing basketball and that he has told Walton before that his father’s comments don’t affect him.
Walton was asked whether LaVar Ball’s comments could possibly influence what management is thinking about its coach and the team’s rebuild.
“I would hope not, but it doesn’t influence what we’re doing,” Walton said of the coaching staff. “I’ve said all along there’s always parents, and parents are going to get mad at things, that’s what they do. And it’s our job as coaches, and coaches in the organization to do what’s best for our team and our players and we make those decisions based on what we see every single day in the facility and on the court.”
“I know they have my back,” Walton said of Lakers management. “Whatever those meetings [with LaVar Ball in the past] are, I’m not concerned with those. My concerns are coaching our team and prepping for games and working with what gives us the best chance of winning. I know our front office and organization, they’ll do whatever they have to do on their end of it, but I’m not spending my time trying to figure out what they’re all doing about it. I just know they’ll take care of it.”