Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball doesn't think that Lakers coach Luke Walton has "lost the locker room," as his outspoken father hypothesized in an ESPN video that surfaced on Sunday morning.
"You can see they're not play for Luke no more," Ball's father told ESPN. "Luke doesn't have control of the team no more. They don't want to play for him."
Ball did little to put out the fire heating up Walton's seat by refusing to outwardly endorse his coach with his father's comments freshly floating about and with the Lakers on a nine-game losing streak and struggling to compete on a nightly basis.
"I don't think so," Ball responded following Sunday morning shootaround when asked point blank if he thought Walton had lost the locker room. "He's our head coach. We're going to play for him."
Had the interview ended at that point, Ball's father would have seemed like a disconnected parent. The rookie's father has a habit of providing outrageous quotes to get attention, and the team also had a meeting with the parent earlier in the season about toning down criticism centered on the coach and the team.
Only, the interview continued, and at one point, Ball was asked plainly if he likes Walton as a coach.
"I'll play for anybody," Ball responded to the yes or no question with half a smile, followed by a head nod in self approval at his response.
The response was far from a ringing endorsement of Walton and could be perceived to be the opposite. Provided a second opportunity to clarify his comments regarding his coach, Ball was asked about the "Play for anybody" response and to expand on preferences, with relation to liking or disliking his coach.
Again, Ball refused to endorse his coach: "My job is to play basketball. I don't decide who the coach is."
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With those two responses, Ball called into question his support of the Lakers' Head Coach.
Walton, who had spoken prior to Ball, contended that the comments from the parent did not bother him, though he did say the noise coming from Ball's father was "Not ideal."
"It doesn't bother me," Walton said standing just off the court at Staples Center. "My only concern with any of it is Zo (Lonzo Ball). As long as Zo is fine with it and Zo can come in and play and it doesn't affect mine and his relationship, then it doesn't bother me at all."
Had he lost the locker room?
"I don't see that our players aren't playing hard," Walton responded to Ball's father's comments. "I think our players are playing very hard. We've been through a hard stretch. They're giving us what they have and we're going to keep working and we'll be fine."
The rough stretch Walton is referring to was a nightmarish end to December featuring games against the best teams in the NBA without break. The Lakers still have not recovered from that brutal stretch, as the team has lost 11 of its last 12 games and has fallen from being an outside contender for the playoffs to the worst record in the Western Conference.
Walton contended that he had not seen any frustrations with Ball in response to his coaching style and said he hoped comments coming from the player's father did not have an impact on the fan narrative or the organization's decision making.
"It doesn't influence what we're doing," Walton said. "I've said all along, 'there're always parents and parents are going to get mad at things. That's what they do.' And it's our job as coaches and an organization to do what's best for our team and our players."
Walton added, "I feel very secure in my job status right now. We [ownership, front office] talk all the time, and there're 100 percent behind in supporting what we're doing here."
Asked if he disagrees with the idea that he's lost the locker room, Walton responded, "I would disagree with that, yes."