Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Speaking to reporters prior to Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings (via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk), James said Walton “did as great of a job as you could do under the circumstances” with the Lakers.
The four-time NBA MVP added he and Walton “were two of the guys that just tried to remain positive and patient” and said the Lakers were having a good season until he suffered a groin injury on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that, including myself and including Luke,” James said. “And we were just behind the eight ball. But throughout it all we just tried to remain positive, even throughout with the young guys, with the older guys and whatever the case may be.”
As the Lakers’ 2018-19 season began to spiral out of control in January, rumors of James’ unhappiness with the coaching staff became a hot topic of conversation.
ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said on the Brian Windhorst and the Hoop Collective podcast that James’ camp “would prefer a coaching change.”
After a 20-14 start, Los Angeles lost 31 of its final 48 games to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
Walton did increase his win total in each of his last two of three seasons with the Lakers, but he still went 98-148 before the two sides agreed to part ways April 12. The 39-year-old found a new job right away when the Kings hired him two days later.
The Lakers went through a number of coaching candidates, including Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue, before landing on Frank Vogel. They are off to a 9-2 start this season behind James and Anthony Davis.