LeBron James came to the defense of Lakers coach Luke Walton after the team earned a big 114-110 victory over the Trail Blazers on Saturday.
Walton was at the center of reports Friday indicating president Magic Johnson reprimanded him for the Lakers’ slow start after losing five games, though Walton said later that day he wasn’t concerned about his job security and has meetings with management on a regular basis.
When asked about how it feels to win amid drama surrounding Walton, James said the 38-year-old coach always puts the team in a position to be successful.
“I mean, it’s great to win, period,” James told reporters (via ESPN). “Listen, coaching staff put us in a position to win, and it’s up to us to go up and execute.
“Luke can care less about what’s going on outside. We could as well. I’m the last person to ask about scrutiny or anything of that nature. So none of that stuff matters to me. The only thing that matters to me is what goes on inside this locker room, both home and away.”
The Lakers are under pressure after signing James during the offseason, but they are still trying to figure out their starting lineup and how to mesh on the court with the veterans and young core. Based on how the Lakers played against the Blazers on Saturday, Walton is optimistic the team is growing and developing in the right direction.
“It just shows that what we’re doing is working,” Walton said of beating the Blazers for the first time since March 3, 2014. “It’s tough to get a win in Portland [even] when they don’t have a good team. When they got the team that they have right now, it’s even more challenging. So you don’t just come up here and get hot and beat Portland.
“You have to play a solid, solid game that starts with defense, and I thought we did that and got ourselves a big enough lead that even when Dame [Lillard] and CJ [McCollum] got cooking at the end, we were able to hold them off. And then, obviously, having LeBron there at the end to kind of close down those final few minutes was big, as well.”
The Lakers (4-5) will face the Raptors (8-1) with tip-off slated for 9:30 p.m. ET.