After the Los Angeles Lakers lost their ninth straight game Friday to the lowly Charlotte Hornets, LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of Lakers rookie and former UCLA standout Lonzo Ball, declared that head coach Luke Walton had lost control of the team.
“You can see they’re not playing for Luke no more,” LaVar told ESPN in an exclusive interview. “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.”
In fairness, the Lakers were playing terrible basketball at the time and have seen their defense, once a top-10 unit in the NBA, regress all the way to 17th as the losses piled up.
L.A., albeit a young team, is 12-27 this season, tied for last in the Western Conference.
But Lonzo said he does not think the Lakers have tuned out Walton — and that his father’s opinion is just...well, an opinion.
“He’s coached me his whole life, so he’s definitely going to have a strong opinion about it,” Lonzo said. “That’s just what it is.”
Lonzo Ball on whether he is happy with Luke Walton as Lakers head coach: “I’ll play for anybody.” pic.twitter.com/9mSQFmReQo— Bill Oram (@billoram) January 7, 2018
Walton said he was unbothered by LaVar’s comments so long as it they did not strain his relationship with Lonzo.
“My only concern with any of it is for Zo,” Walton said. “As long as Zo is fine with it, and Zo can come in and play, and it doesn’t affect mine and his relationship, then it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Luke Walton responds to LaVar Ball’s allegation that he has lost the locker room. “I would disagree with that,” he said. pic.twitter.com/dimJr1NEqv— Bill Oram (@billoram) January 7, 2018
But during the first quarter of the Lakers’ win Sunday — yes, they finally won a game – Walton pulled Ball from the game in the first quarter.
“His dad was talking s—t, so I took him out early,” Walton said before a long pause. “Just kidding.”
The actual reason? Ball asked for a rest. No harm, no foul.
But that is still some Savage Life stuff by Walton who is handling the situation as well as one could.
It can’t be easy when one of your player’s fathers is publicly trashing you to a major media outlet.
“It’s not ideal obviously, but the group is always... we have each other, and that’s it,” said Walton, who is in his second season coaching the Lakers. “When we’re in there, and we’re trying to fight off this losing streak, and we’re winning games, or we’re losing games, or people are hurt, there’s always going to be outside stuff going on.
“It should not impact what we’re trying to do and the message we’re trying to get delivered in our locker room.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire