OAKLAND, California. – A tense after-game scene developed in the Los Angeles Lakers' locker room at Oracle Arena on Saturday after a 115-101 loss to the Golden State Warriors, when coach Luke Walton challenged several players due to his selfish approach of the game. And they went back to their coach, the sources told ESPN.
The Lakers, playing without LeBron James, who was delayed by the pain, led the defending champion Warriors 81-71 in the middle of the third quarter before the wheels came out, being beaten 44-20 the rest of the way.
The sources told ESPN that Walton criticized the veterans for contributing to the fall of the Lakers by not playing a team game and making bad decisions in difficult times. Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee, in particular, made an exception with the comments.
A group of fans of the Lakers at the Oracle Arena, aware of the imminent free agency of Klay Thompson, shouted: "We want Thompson!" when the Warriors All-Star threw free throws on Saturday night, which led coach Steve Kerr to comment: "They should love Klay."
LeBron James, who played 40 minutes Thursday on his comeback from a groin injury, came out of that game and was left out of Saturday's loss to the Warriors.
There are three reasons to doubt the ability of the Lakers to achieve this.
The veterans – both signed with the Lakers on one-year contracts last season – countered Walton's criticism by expressing frustration with Walton's inconsistent rotations this season, the sources told ESPN.
The confrontation, previously reported by The Athletic, was "heated," according to one source, but calmed down quite quickly. Beasley, who also engaged in a verbal sideline dispute with Walton during the overtime victory of the 138-128 Lakers in Oklahoma City more than two weeks ago, repeatedly referred to Walton as "bro" during the exchange of the Saturday, which affected a lot With the coach, a source told ESPN.
Less than a week before the Thunder game, McGee publicly called Walton's lack of defensive adjustments in the Lakers' 113-95 loss on the road to the Utah Jazz. Walton and McGee met in private shortly after to quell the problem.
A source familiar with Saturday's confrontation played down its significance, and told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne: "It was never close to getting out of control, people always get excited after a loss." And a source present for the incident told ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk that the initial reports of the discord were "overrated."
A player from the Lakers, who asked not to be identified, told Marc Spears of The Undefeated: "Nothing crazy happened, Luke said some things, the players answered some things, nobody was disrespectful, nothing crazy was said." .
Another source with knowledge of the post-game disagreement supported Walton's message. "It seems like it had to be said," the source told ESPN.
The Lakers shot 7-of-28 from the field in the last quarter and a half on Saturday, accumulating only three assists in those baskets and committing seven turnovers. Beasley was 0-for-2 in that stretch and McGee was 1-for-1 and also made a rotation.
Lance Stephenson, who went 1-for-5 with three turnovers during the denouement, disputed his involvement in the post-game dust, writing in his Instagram story: "The media decided to add Lance Stephenson … I'm in a very happy place … Nothing but positive If you are going to write a story, get the real facts, please ".
Walton spoke with reporters after the game about his message to his team when the Warriors were running.
"Everything we talk about, everything we work on, we even have to do much better," said Walton. "The movement of the ball is natural when the boys, if the other team is in a race or intensify their defense, try to go 1 to 1. But that only makes the defense of the other team better, so we have to continue be aggressive, attack but also create for others. "
The Lakers have Sunday off before flying to Indianapolis on Monday for a four-game trip against the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks before the All-Star break.
Adding to the pressure the team could feel at 27-26 and chasing a place in the Western Conference playoffs, the deadline for the NBA trade is this Thursday and most of the Lakers' list has been included. in the trading rumors surrounding the team's search in New Orleans pelicans. the superstar Anthony Davis.
After the Warriors game, the Lakers point guard, Rajon Rondo, was asked how the players are handling the situation.
"They look very good," he said. "They are still working in the gym, they know that at the end of the day they will still have a job in the NBA, no matter where they are, they are learning in this league that the exchange conversations happen all the time and each year they will be in the game will understand that it is a business ".