Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Magic puts Walton on hot seat for Lakers’ slow start

By Don Wanlass

Staff Writer

From the day the Lakers announced the signing of LeBron James last July, everybody knew the day would come when Luke Walton would find himself on the hot seat as the Lakers coach.

Even when Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, the team president and general manager, respectively, urged patience while the team learned to play together, we all knew Walton would be on the hot seat if the Lakers didn’t win.

We just didn’t know that it would only take seven games for a fire to be lit under Walton.

The question now on everybody’s mind is who leaked the news that Walton had been “admonished” by Magic about the team’s 2-5 start?

Was it Magic himself turning up the heat on Walton by going public with the news? Or did Walton mention it to the reporter who broke the story as a defensive mechanism?

We might never know the answer to who done it, but if Magic truly did give Walton a tongue-lashing for his team starting 2-5 he isn’t making this any easier on James, who has had a reputation as a coach killer since before he took his talents to South Beach.

James supposedly wanted Erik Spoelstra fired before he coached the Miami Heat to two titles. Fortunately for all concerned, Miami President Pat Riley had Spoelstra’s back and told James that Spoelstra was the coach and James had better get used to it.

James admitted his patience was wearing thin with the slow start the Lakers have gotten off to this year, but that record of 4-6 as of this writing can be explained rather easily. The players are still getting used to each other.

James is learning how to play with Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and the rest of his new teammates, just like they are adjusting to playing with the best player in the world.

It didn’t help matters when Ingram and veteran point guard Rajon Rondo got suspended for four and three games, respectively, for their roles in a fight with the Houston Rockets in the second game of the season.

Those two are key players in the Lakers rotation and that delayed by four games the Lakers getting familiar with each other.

James had similar problems assimilating with the Miami Heat when he first got there and when he returned to Cleveland in 2014. It takes time for every team to mesh at the start of the season. It’s harder when the biggest star of the game is inserted into your lineup with two or three other newcomers.

The Lakers aren’t going to make the playoffs in November. If that is going to happen this season, it will happen in March and April.

What the Lakers need most at the start of this long season is stability: stability on the floor with a rotation of nine or 10 players every night, stability from the coaching staff and stability in the front office with everyone pulling in the same direction.

If Johnson is even thinking about firing Walton this early in the season, Jeanie Buss better take him aside and tell him to have the same patience he told all of us to have last July. Buss has seen enough coaching turnover this decade with Walton the fourth coach the Lakers have had since Phil Jackson retired.

There will be plenty of time for coaching changes down the road if the Lakers are 10 games under .500 at the all-star break. Now is not the time for the head coach to start looking over his shoulder.

Tyson Chandler (32) during his high school years at Compton’s Dominguez High School. Chandler signed with the Lakers this week after being released by the Phoenix Suns.(Courtesy photo)

A GOOD MOVE: On the bright side, the Lakers signed Tyson Chandler this week to back up JaVale McGee at center and provide some more veteran leadership.

It has been more than 20 years since Chandler, now 36, started making a name for himself as a high school star at Dominguez High in Compton.

As a high school freshman, he was profiled on “60 Minutes.” As a senior, he led Dominguez to a state championship, averaging 26 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocked shots a game.

He skipped college and turned pro right out of high school, becoming the second player picked in the 2001 NBA draft by the hometown Clippers, who promptly traded him to Chicago.

He never found his stride with the Bulls and after five years there, found himself traded to the New Orleans Hornets, where he found some success, averaging a double-double with 11.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 2007-08, helping lead the Hornets to a division title.

But the Hornets lost a seven-game series to the Spurs in the playoffs, even though Chandler played well against Tim Duncan throughout the series.

In 2010-11, Chandler found himself in Dallas where he helped the Mavericks to a 57-win season. That season, the Mavericks made it all the way to the NBA Finals where they ran into LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Mavericks won in six games. Chandler scored 13 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in a crucial game 4 in that series.

Since then, Chandler has bounced around to the Knicks, back to the Mavericks and then to the Phoenix Suns, who released him last weekend.

Over his career, Chandler has averaged 8.6 points and 9.4 rebounds a game. With the Lakers, he figures to play 15 to 20 minutes a game, providing some much needed defense and experience.

It just means the start of the Ivica Zubac era for the Lakers is being pushed backed again.

Rams running back Malcolm Brown dives for the pylon while scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints Nov. 4. The Rams dropped their first game of the season to the Saints, 45-35. (Courtesy photo)

NO BIG LOSS: The Rams fell from the ranks of the unbeaten Nov. 4 when they lost to the New Orleans Saints, 45-35. The Saints are 7-1, so the loss is no disgrace to the Rams, but the game could be a sign that the Rams’ defense isn’t as sturdy as expected. Or it could mean the Saints’ offense is really good.

Drew Brees has a lot of weapons and he knows how to distribute the ball, which gave the Rams fits all day.

Brees completed 25 of 36 passes for 346 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Alvin Kamara had 82 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns and wide receiver Michael Thomas got 12 passes for 211 yards and a 72-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that ended the Rams’ comeback hopes.

The Rams got off to a horrible start, trailing 35-14 in the second quarter before rallying for 21 unanswered points to tie the score 35-35 with four minutes left in the game.

Jared Goff completed 28 of 40 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Todd Gurley had 68 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown and wide receiver Brandin Cooks had six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.

Those two teams will face each other again in January, possibly with the Super Bowl on the line.