- LeBron James’ agent and friend Rich Paul met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver in November and told Silver that he didn’t think Luke Walton was the right coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, according to an ESPN report.
- Silver reportedly “shrugged” off the comment and asked Paul who he thought should coach the Lakers. Paul reportedly said, “Tyronn Lue.”
- Tensions between Paul, Walton, and the Lakers reportedly existed for months, and the Lakers eventually fired Walton at the end of the season but missed out on hiring Lue.
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LeBron James’ agent, friend, and business partner, Rich Paul, reportedly made several people aware, including NBA commissioner Adam Silver, that he did not believe Luke Walton was the right coach for the Los Angeles Lakers.
According to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, Paul met with Silver for lunch in November. During their meeting, Paul suddenly spoke up to tell Silver that he did not think Walton should coach James and the Lakers.
According to Holmes, Silver “shrugged” off the comment and asked Paul who he thought should coach the Lakers. Paul reportedly told Silver he thought ex-Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue would be right for the job.
Holmes also reported that Paul told people, including journalists, through “back-channels” that he didn’t support Walton.
As Holmes noted, it’s not unusual for agents to make their voices heard (often on behalf of their clients) on team matters, but according to Holmes, a tension between Paul (and his agency, Klutch Sports), Walton, and the Lakers existed before James even joined the team in the summer of 2018.
According to Holmes, Paul was seen at the Lakers’ facilities in the 2017-18 season (he represented Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope). His presence, however, was seen by many as a scouting trip on Walton and determining if he would be the right coach for James.
“It was clear to us that he was scouting [Walton’s viability as the head coach] – and Luke is aware of this,” a member of the coaching staff told Holmes.
Some within the Lakers reportedly believed the team tried to curry favours with Klutch Sports to land James. That included allowing an unusual set-up where Caldwell-Pope started and played home games for the Lakers while serving a 25-day prison sentence for violating his probation terms for a DUI charge. He did not travel with the team, per the terms of his work-release rules. According to Holmes, members of the organisation had a problem with this.
Furthermore, there was team-wide fallout from the Lakers’ pursuit of Anthony Davis, who is also represented by Paul. According to Holmes (and other previous reports), several members of the Lakers thought James and his camp were trying to push them out for Davis, leading to a lack of trust in the locker room.
The Lakers fired Walton in April, days after team president Magic Johnson resigned abruptly on the last day of the regular season.
The Lakers did pursue Lue as their head coach, but reportedly lost him when they low-balled him on a contract offer that coincided with the expiring of James’ contract. They hired Frank Vogel as their head coach.
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