The Los Angeles Lakers are in a precarious state.
They have lost 12 of their last 19 games as LeBron James has been nursing a groin injury, and several Laker players have surfaced in trade rumors since Anthony Davis requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 28.
So it does not come as a shock that frustrations reportedly boiled over in LA’s locker room on Saturday following a loss to the Golden State Warriors.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, head coach Luke Walton was involved in an “emotionally-charged verbal exchange” with several Laker veterans including Michael Beasley.
As uncertainty surrounds Lakers into deadline week, several veterans -- including Michael Beasley -- had an emotionally-charged verbal exchange with head coach Luke Walton postgame tonight, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @WatchStadium. It stopped short of turning physical.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 3, 2019
Charania reports the players “raised their voice on topics of Walton’s playing time distribution and rotations” after Walton pleaded with them to play unselfishly.
As far as who was involved in the confrontation, it is not entirely clear. Charania and Sam Amick, also of The Athletic, mentioned Beasley along with JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson as the culprits.
However, Stephenson disputed those reports on Instagram while Bill Oram, another reporter from The Athletic, said Stephenson was not involved, citing unnamed sources.
Tania Ganguli of the LA Times named Beasley, McGee, and Josh Hart as those involved in the argument, plus downplayed the severity of it, backing up a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that it was “typical locker room stuff.”
Heard the same. Josh Hart, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee were frustrated and got a bit heated, but it never came close to getting physical, I’m told. https://t.co/roZ7LuthBE— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) February 3, 2019
Adding to that, a source told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that the confrontation was “way overhyped” but acknowledged the Lakers are “under a ton of scrutiny right now” due to trade rumors and contract situations.
“The confrontation, earlier reported by The Athletic, was ‘heated,’ according to a source but calmed down rather quickly,” wrote ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “Beasley, who also got into a verbal spat on the sidelines with Walton during the Lakers’ 138-128 overtime victory in Oklahoma City just more than two weeks ago, repeatedly referred to Walton as ‘bro’ during the exchange Saturday, which touched a nerve with the coach, a source told ESPN.”
Harrison Faigen, editor-in-chief of SB Nation’s Lakers blog Silver Screen & Roll, did his best to analyze the situation and what it could mean for Walton’s future in Los Angeles:
It would certainly be the optimistic view to imagine that something like this cleared the air for the team or was super normal, and while that’s not impossible, it would seem a lot more likely that this is the natural result when an organization spends all year leaking that their head coach isn’t their guy to every reporter with a cell phone and a Twitter account.
Stuff like that makes Walton seem like a dead man walking, which hardly does wonders for his status in a locker room filled with one-year veterans known for volatile personalities that are being bandied about in trade rumors, and that’s before even getting to LeBron James’ camp (surely acting totally independently from what LeBron wants!) signaling to even more members of the media that they would prefer the Lakers change coaches.
The Lakers are 88-129 under Walton over the past three seasons, their win total increasing each year. LA currently sits in ninth in the Western Conference standings, two games out of the playoffs.
James missed 17 games before returning Thursday when the Lakers beat the Clippers in overtime. However, the 34-year-old sat out Saturday’s game due to “load management” and the Lakers were blown out 115-101 by the Warriors.