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Luke Walton downplays LaVar Ball’s critiques while Lonzo Ball says ‘I’ll play for anyone’

Early Sunday morning, LaVar Ball, the father of Lakers starting point guard Lonzo Ball, told an ESPN reporter in Lithuania that coach Luke Walton had lost the locker room.

Several hours later, Walton disagreed with that assessment and Lonzo Ball was left to connect the dots.

Ball was asked directly if he likes Walton as his head coach.

“I’ll play for anybody,” Ball said.

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He added, after a follow-up question: “My job is to play basketball. I don’t decide who coaches.”

The Lakers did not immediately make available general manager Rob Pelinka, who attended their Sunday morning shootaround at Staples Center. It is unclear whether the organization will address LaVar Ball’s comments as they relate to their head coach.

But Walton said he has spoken to team executives, and has received assurances that his job is safe.

“I feel very secure in my job status right now,” Walton said. “We talk all the time. They’re 100% behind and supporting what we’re doing.”

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The Lakers are on a nine-game losing streak, and losing has often brought about LaVar Ball’s public critiques.

Pelinka and Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson met with LaVar Ball on Nov. 29, not long after he told a reporter the Lakers coaches were too soft on his son. During the meeting they asked for a more positive tone from LaVar Ball.

“It was a good conversation,” LaVar Ball said the next week. “What I love about [Johnson] is just the communication that we have as a family and as friends to fix the situation they’re just solutions that we throw off each other. That’s all it is. The press is going to make it out like I’m trying to demean them or they’re trying to demean me. And it’s not.”

A few days after the meeting, LaVar took part in a radio interview on Sirius XM in which he criticized Walton’s rotations, especially Lonzo’s low minutes in fourth quarters.

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“I’m fine with it, it doesn’t bother me,” Walton said of the criticism. “My only concern with any of it is for Zo. As long as Zo’s fine with it and Zo can come out and play … then it doesn’t bother me at all.”

When Walton spoke at shootaround on Sunday morning, he said he had not yet had a conversation with Lonzo Ball about his father’s comments. The Lakers point guard said that when his father criticizes Walton, he does not feel the need to reach out to his head coach.

“Luke can come up to me and ask whatever is on his mind,” Lonzo Ball said. “But he knows I am ready to play. That is all I do, is play.”

Asked if his father thinks Walton should not be the Lakers’ head coach, Lonzo Ball said: “That’s just his opinion. He has coached me his whole life. So, he is definitely going to have a strong opinion about it. That’s just what it is.”

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tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli


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