Walton’s fate seemed inevitable a few days ago, but Johnson’s departure changed the situation. It became more likely that Walton could stay for the 2019/20 campaign with Johnson, who had intended to sack Walton, gone.
Despite Walton’s relationship with owner Jeanie Buss, he was unable to keep his job. Walton remains highly regarded around the NBA and has already been linked with the Sacramento Kings job.
Lue has been suggested for the Lakers job for some time. The former Cleveland Cavaliers coach ticks two important boxes for the Lakers; he’s won a title and he’s worked in harmony with LeBron James.
The LeBron factor is immeasurable. Walton and James’ relationship was not perfect; it’s a unique coaching skillset to bring the best out of LeBron.
Lue was unafraid to challenge James, as he famously did in Game Seven against the Warriors, and it was the bedrock of a successful working relationship. Having someone LeBron respects is integral to the Lakers improving in 2019/20.
The roster needs improvement and shaping to fit around James better regardless of who the coach is. Lue, though, knows the framework for LeBron-based success as well as anyone. Whether he would have a role in recruitment or not, the former journeyman point guard has experience of a LeBron-led franchise that the Lakers lack.
Walton wanted LeBron to play off the ball more. Understandable considering his age, perhaps, but the Lakers were simply a better team with LeBron as the primary ball handler. Lue set Cleveland up with LeBron running the point. It’s the route to success for the Lakers, barring a shock point guard arrival this summer.
Hiring Lue would not be a fix-all. It would, however, be a step in the right direction, changing approach from the messy Magic era. It will be almost a clean slate at Staples Center next season and introducing James’ title-winning coach seems a very good place to start.
Having already wasted a year of James, the Lakers cannot gamble with this appointment. Lue knows what he’s getting himself in for. He knows the media circus, he knows the expectations and he knows LeBron James. His appointment seems a no-brainer for the Lakers, who can’t afford any more mistakes after a catalogue of misjudgements since James signed.