"Throughout his tenure with the Lakers, Johnson has earned an internal reputation for an oftentimes volatile management style, including with his handling of Walton and the coaching staff".
L.A. opened the season in Portland just over two weeks ago and has been on a roller-coaster ride ever since, starting 0-3, winning two in a row, then losing two in a row, prompting the Johnson-Walton session after seven games. The Lakers have fallen to the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs (twice) by a combined nine points in the three games.
Saturday was their first road win of the season against a team with a winning record against a Portland team riding a 3-game win streak and playing some of the best ball in the National Basketball Association over the opening stretch of the season.
Walton has spent the season trying to find the right rotations, using 104 lineups in their eight games, second only to the rebuilding Hawks' 140, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Walton took over as the team's head coach in 2016. "That's not always my philosophy but with this team I'd like to keep one of those guys out there as much as possible".
But forget about the streak, the Lakers needed this win badly. "My teammates told me before the game to just play my game and it was a hell of a night", said Rose. "We love the fact that we're going to get another veteran".
But the Lakers bench would get the visitors back in the game, going 16-7 to end the quarter to cut the Trail Blazers' lead to 29-28 going into the second quarter. While Walton won't be fired soon, there is the potential for him to see the door if things don't change.
"We have been saying since the beginning that we need to be patient", Walton said.
"It's, what can I do to make this team the best that we can be and are we getting better?"
"I like Tyson Chandler", Stotts said. "It's our choice either to hang on to those, or it's our choice to stay present and focus our energy and time on what we can do to get better".