Luke Walton is officially the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, but if a recent report is true, the third-year coach may be more of a figurehead than anything else these days.
"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."
Of course, the three-time NBA champion has served as his team's floor general for years now, whether it be with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat or, now, the Lakers. His basketball IQ is second to none, allowing him to run the offense as he sees fit.
The 33-year-old James is having another strong season, leading Los Angeles in scoring (27.6), rebounds (7.9), assists (6.7) and steals (1.4). The four-time NBA MVP has helped a young nucleus quickly mesh with veterans added during the offseason.
But again, Walton is the head coach for a reason.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin reported earlier this month that Lakers president Magic Johnson "admonished" Walton in the midst of a 4-6 start. The team has responded by winning seven of its past 10 games to move above the .500 mark.
As long as James and Walton have an understanding, the two can co-exist in Hollywood together. But if Walton takes issue with James' style of play, it could ultimately lead to one of the two being sent out of town—and it wouldn't end well for Walton.
Former Cavaliers coach David Blatt learned the hard way that piling up wins doesn't guarantee job security when James is on the roster. Blatt helped Cleveland make the NBA Finals back in 2015 but was relieved of his duties midway through the 2015-16 season despite the Cavs owning the best record (30-11) in the Eastern Conference at the time.
Cleveland went on to win its first-ever championship that season under Tyronn Lue.
If Walton can learn anything from Blatt and Lue, it's that James needs to be given the freedom to call plays. Given he has been to eight consecutive Finals, and nine overall, James knows what it takes to win at the highest level.