Early this morning ESPN’S Baxter Holmes released an scathing behind-the-scenes look of the Lakers dysfunction and it’s a bad look for everyone involved in the organization.
In the piece, there are several anecdotes on how LeBron James agent Rich Paul made Luke Walton and his staff uncomfortable during Walton’s tenure with the Lakers.
According to Holmes Walton and his team were not too happy about the team bringing in Klutch sports player Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who they believed was used by Paul to scout Walton’s ability as a coach.
Yet when Paul, who represented Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope prior to the team signing James, was seen at the facility during the 2017-18 season, his presence created an uneasy feeling among some coaching staffers and others close to Walton who knew the Lakers were also pursuing Paul’s biggest client, James.
“It was clear to us that he was scouting [Walton’s viability as the head coach] — and Luke is aware of this,” said one member of the Lakers coaching staff who was present at the facility.
In that same season, Caldwell-Pope was allowed to practice and play with the team while serving a 25-day jail sentence for violating the terms of his probation stemming from a DUI charge — a decision that, multiple team staffers said, caused unrest in the franchise.
“Anybody [else] would have put him on personal leave or suspended him,” one coaching staff member said.
“I had a major problem with that,” a Lakers front-office executive said.
Apparently, Paul was so fed up with Walton that he complained to NBA commissioner Adam Silver about the Lakers head coach at restaurant.
In November, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Maverick Carter, LeBron’s longtime business partner, met for lunch. James’ agent, Rich Paul, was seated at a nearby table, and at one point, approached Silver to complain about Walton, multiple sources familiar with the interaction told ESPN. Paul said he didn’t believe Walton was the right coach for the Lakers. Silver shrugged off the remark and asked whom Paul thought would be the right coach. Paul suggested Tyronn Lue.
Walton’s coaching staff grew distrustful of Paul after they learned that he was telling reporters through “back-channel conversations” that he didn’t like Walton as a coach.
Paul was also letting it be known through back-channel conversations, including those with reporters, that he wasn’t on board with Walton. Paul criticized how Walton allotted minutes to players and his inconsistent lineups, which were partly the result of injuries and suspensions. Members of the Lakers’ coaching staff became aware of those conversations and wondered whether Johnson’s heated meeting with Walton was influenced by Paul.
Paul continued to make things uncomfortable for everybody when he rode on the team plane while it was rumored that he was trying to orchestrate Walton’s fire while also attempting to make a trade for Anthony Davis.
Coaching staff and others close to the team told ESPN there would continue to be an increased presence by Paul and Klutch Sports in ways that seemed strange to them. For instance, three Lakers sources familiar with team travel details independently told ESPN that Paul rode on the Lakers’ charter plane on multiple occasions this season, an act that front-office executives, other NBA general managers and other agents around the league said is highly unusual — if not unheard of.
And so the perception existed among the Lakers’ coaching staff that Paul sought to oust Walton. And some players also believed, according to coaching staff members and those players’ agents, that Klutch Sports was working to trade them away for a superstar. Given those perceptions, one former Lakers player described Paul’s presence on the team charter as a “culture killer.”
“Coaches know Rich is trying to get them fired, and players know Rich is trying to get them traded,” said one agent with ties to the Lakers, who called Paul’s presence on the plane “destructive.”
If you haven’t read Baxter Holmes piece on the Lakers dysfunction you should go check it out.