NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Luke Walton, Jimmy Butler Trade Drama & More

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistNovember 4, 2018

Minnesota Timberwolves' Jimmy Butler plays against the Indiana Pacers in the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Jim Mone/Associated Press

There are clear haves and obvious have-nots in today's NBA, and because of this, not every game is going to be a drama-filled affair. When it comes to the league itself, though, there's plenty of intrigue to go around.

It's early in the 2018-19 NBA season, and we have already seen the Cleveland Cavaliers fire their head coach, some front-office friction for the Los Angeles Lakers and an increasingly aggressive standoff between Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Despite being just a couple weeks in, there is plenty of drama swirling around. Let's take a look at some of the latest.


Lakers Not Unhappy with Walton

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have gotten off to a sluggish start this season, and it's fair to wonder how much of this year's team is going to be around in 2019. The Lakers appear willing to take a long-term approach now that James is on board, but virtually everyone aside from him is auditioning for a role in the next stage.

This includes coach Luke Walton, who was hired in 2016 after serving as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors.

Is Walton the right person to oversee L.A.'s version of The Process? The early results this season suggest he might not be, and team president Magic Johnson recently had some harsh criticism for his head coach.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Johnson "admonished" Walton in a recent meeting. This could be viewed as a sign that Walton is on an increasingly short leash.

"Johnson's cutting appraisal elevated an already acute awareness within the Lakers coaching staff that there are intense and immediate pressures on Walton to deliver the franchise a winner in short order," Wojnarowski and McMenamin reported.

Walton may not be the man in charge after this season, but according to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times, he still has the support of ownership.

It feels unlikely that a slow start will be enough to put Walton's job in jeopardy.

"We're still in the real early stages," James explained, per McMenamin. "But we are much more of a unit today than we were two weeks ago. So I think we'll be even better two weeks from now, and two weeks from then."

If the Lakers are under .500 come January, then Walton will need to worry.


Butler Drama Could Affect Thibodeau's Job Security

The situation with Butler has gotten a bit odd, to say the least. He made a deal with owner Glen Taylor to play while the team worked to trade him. However, he now doesn't seem all too interested in playing—at least not every night.

Butler sat out Wednesday's game against the Utah Jazz and then returned to play against the Golden State Warriors on Friday. Butler cited soreness as his reason for sitting on Wednesday, but he doesn't believe he needs to explain his absences.

"Stop asking me questions about if I'm going to sit out or not," Butler said, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. "If I'm going to sit out, you probably won't talk to me on the day I sit out. But if I do, then I do, and you can create a story around it with a lot of made-up stuff like y'all normally do."

The Butler drama is likely having a negative effect on the locker room. It may also affect the future of coach Tom Thibodeau.

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News recently wrote the following:

"Thibodeau is under orders from Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor to trade Jimmy Butler, which is about the last thing the team president-coach wants to do as he starts the third year of a five-year, $40-million deal.

"When he was with the Bulls, he wasn't very popular within the team's offices. He was viewed as arrogant and standoffish. Now, his same basketball-only tunnel vision hasn't made many friends within the Minnesota franchise.

"League execs expect that will lead Taylor to make a move after this season to bring in someone with strong Timberwolves ties, like Chauncey Billups, to run the team."

If Thibodeau cannot get a deal done soon and Butler becomes an even bigger distraction, the coach's job security is going to fly out the window.


Anthony Davis Jockeying for an Offseason Trade

It probably isn't going to happen during the season, but New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis could be on his way out. According to Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register, Davis could look to force his way out next offseason.

Heisler wrote the following: "With a huge free-agent summer coming in 2019—last summer's was quiet in comparison, with only a few major stars available—insiders think Davis will force a trade, making him the prize of a mega-star list that potentially includes Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler."

No one but Davis knows whether he will try to force his way out of New Orleans next offseason or whether he is unhappy with the team. It does seem, however, that the pressure of consistently carrying his team is wearing on him.

"If we lose, it's on me," Davis said, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. "If we win, they give my team the credit, and I'm fine with that. So, I got to play almost perfect every night to give us a chance to win."

With the top tier of the NBA filled with teams boasting multiple stars, Davis could be looking to land with a couple of other All-Stars. To make it happen soon, he would have to force a trade because he is under contract until 2020.