Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball, Luke Walton dispute LaVar Ball’s assertion that Walton has lost team

NBA


LOS ANGELES — Luke Walton and Lonzo Ball both say that the Los Angeles Lakers head coach has not lost the locker room during a nine-game losing streak as LaVar Ball asserts.

Lonzo Ball also says that “I’ll play for anybody” when the rookie point guard was asked if he is fine with Walton as his head coach.

This comes after his father, LaVar, told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.”

“He’s a grown man,” Ball said of his father’s comments following the Lakers’ shootaround at Staples Center. “Like I said, he is going to say what he wants to say. I can’t [do] nothing about it.”

“My job is to play basketball,” Ball added when asked about having a preference for playing for certain coaches. “I don’t decide who coaches.”

Walton disagreed with LaVar’s latest criticism of the Lakers coach that he has lost his team, which has lost 12 of the last 13 games. Walton, who said on Friday morning that he is not coaching as if his job is on the line, was asked if he has received assurances from anyone in Lakers upper management.

“Yeah. We’re, I feel very secure in my job status right now,” Walton said. “We talk all the time. They’re 100% behind and supporting what we’re doing.”

Lakers majority owner Jeanie Buss tweeted strong support with the hashtag “InLukeWeTrust” on New Year’s Eve and all indications have been that Walton’s job is not an issue. A Lakers source told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Walton’s job status is “not even a conversation.”

This, though, is not the first time LaVar Ball has been critical of Walton’s coaching. The elder Ball has said that the Lakers coaching staff is “soft” and doesn’t know how to coach his son and he expressed his displeasure with how Walton was using his son in the fourth quarter of games.

The Lakers already have held a meeting with the elder Ball and asked him to tone down his criticisms of Walton to foster a better atmosphere for Ball and continue a positive relationship with the organization.

LaVar’s latest comments left the No. 2 overall pick having to answer several questions on Sunday morning about the state of the Lakers locker room and his relationship with Walton.

“He is going to speak his mind, he is not going to change,” said Ball, who says he hasn’t spoken to LaVar since his father and two brothers landed in Lithuania where LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are playing basketball. “… I don’t think [Walton has lost the locker room]. I mean, he’s our head coach. We are going to play for him.”

“That is just his opinion,” Ball added of his father’s constant criticism of Walton. “He has coached me his whole life. So, he is definitely going to have a strong opinion about it. That’s just what it is.”

The Lakers (11-27) have lost 12 of their last 13 games after playing hard and being competitive to start the season. The team held a team meeting on Dec. 28 to air out issues from players being unhappy about roles, minutes, rotations, effort to the direction the team is taking with its focus on signing two star free agents next summer.

“I don’t see that the players aren’t playing hard,” Walton said. “I think the players are playing very hard, we’ve been through a hard stretch, but they are giving us what they have and we’re going to keep working and we’ll be fine.”

“I’m fine with it, it doesn’t bother me,” Walton added of LaVar’s repeated criticism of him. “My only concern with any of it is for Zo. As long as Zo’s fine with it and Zo can come out and play, and it doesn’t affect mine and his relationship then it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Ball said he just focuses on playing basketball and that he has told Walton before that his father’s comments don’t bother or affect him.

Walton was asked if LaVar’s comments could possibly influence what management is thinking about the Lakers’ rebuild and Walton.

“I would hope not, but it doesn’t influence what we’re doing,” Walton said of the coaching staff. “I’ve said all along there’s always parents and parents are going to get mad at things, that’s what they do. And it’s our job as coaches, and coaches in the organization to do what’s best for our team and our players and we make those decisions based on what we see every single day in the facility and on the court.”

“I know they have my back,” Walton added of management. “Whatever those meetings [with LaVar in the past] are, I’m not concerned with those. My concerns are coaching our team and prepping for games and working with what gives us the best chance of winning. I know our front office and organization, they’ll do whatever they have to do on their end of it but I’m not spending my time trying to figure out what they’re all doing about it. I just know they’ll take care of it.”



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