Magic Johnson denies report that LeBron James is ignoring Luke Walton's play calls

Yahoo Sports
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/lal" data-ylk="slk:Lakers">Lakers</a> president Magic Johnson denied reports on Thursday that <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/3704/" data-ylk="slk:LeBron James">LeBron James</a> is ignoring coach Luke Walton’s play calls. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Getty Images)
Lakers president Magic Johnson denied reports on Thursday that LeBron James is ignoring coach Luke Walton’s play calls. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Getty Images)

A report surfaced on Wednesday claiming that LeBron James is ignoring Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton — something that would cause a problem within any professional sports organization.

Lakers team president Magic Johnson shut that report down.

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ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported on Wednesday that James is ignoring Walton’s offensive play calls and simply taking the game into his own hands. Johnson, appearing on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Thursday afternoon, said that’s simply not true because of the way the Lakers’ offense is set up.

“Brian got it wrong,” Johnson said. “This is all about making sure that they can say something on ESPN and everybody can just talk. We have a system that the ball moves around, a lot of pick-and-roll plays. If you watch us play, the ball is not in LeBron James’ hands all of the time. It can’t be, because you want to pass it around, you want to get into your pick-and-roll plays.

“But hey, we’re the Lakers. People are going to be talking about us. But that’s not how it’s going right now.”


Now, it’s not ridiculous to think that James is running the Lakers offense by himself or ignoring his coach. He’s done that throughout most of his career — both in Cleveland and with the Heat, at least for part of his time in Miami. He is, after all, one of the best basketball players of all time, and has led his teams to eight straight NBA Finals.

From Windhorst’s report:

The scouts also have noticed that when James is running the point, he rarely looks toward the bench to receive play calls from coach Luke Walton. Even when he has seen them, the scouts say, he ignores them and runs the play he prefers. Walton has adjusted, and now when James is running the show, Walton will typically just let him call the game. This probably shouldn’t be considered a slight — it’s just James being James.

It is interesting, though, that this news comes after reports that players are “discontent” with Walton’s lineups and that Johnson “admonished” Walton for their slow start this season.

If you do believe Johnson, though, things are normal in Los Angeles.

At least, things are as normal as they can be with a superstar like James on the team. And based on the way things have gone so far, James is only going to bring more attention — both good and bad — to the franchise as the season moves on.

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