Players confront coach after James-less Lakers' loss

OAKLAND • LeBron James' absence from the Los Angeles Lakers' 115-101 National Basketball Association (NBA) loss to the Golden State Warriors due to "load management" had been the main talking point on Saturday night.

That is until word got out that there had been a bust-up in the Lakers' locker room, with several veteran players, including Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee, getting into a heated exchange with coach Luke Walton.

According to several tweets from The Athletic's Shams Charania, the spat was "emotionally charged" and only just "stopped short of turning physical" .

ESPN corroborated his account, claiming that Beasley and McGee "took exception" to Walton's criticism that the Lakers played like individuals and handled the ball poorly during the defeat.

The pair then reportedly brought up his penchant for rotating as the reason why the team have slipped out of play-off contention, dropping to 10th in the West - two games behind the eighth-placed Los Angeles Clippers with a 27-26 record.

Although a source later told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that "it never got close to getting out of control", Lance Stephenson, who had 10 points, was unhappy he had been named as one of those involved in the feud.

Post-game, the guard posted a video on his Instagram account, which was captioned: "I'm in a very happy place, nothing but positive. If u (sic) going to write a story, get the real facts please".

Walton's anger at his players was, however, justified as the James-less Lakers had led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter and were still up 89-88 with 11 minutes remaining.

But the two-time defending NBA champions never looked back after Andre Iguodala, who finished with 17 points on seven-for-nine shooting, ignited a fourth-quarter runaway with successive three-pointers. They were paced by a 28-point showing from Klay Thompson.

Brandon Ingram had a team-high 20 points for the Lakers, who fell to 6-12 without James in their line-up.

While Walton did not directly comment on the post-game scenes that transpired, he did shed some light on James' condition, insisting that he would play in tomorrow's game at the Indiana Pacers.

He told ESPN: "Right now, it's more just him being sore after five weeks of not playing basketball."

The 15-time All-Star had only returned last Thursday against the Clippers following a 17-game spell on the sidelines.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2019, with the headline 'Players confront coach after James-less Lakers' loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe