Magic Johnson to Luke Walton: 'Don't worry' if Lakers have bad start

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Saying he understands that the revamped Los Angeles Lakers will need time to mesh, Magic Johnson said he told head coach Luke Walton not to worry if the team gets off to a bumpy start this season.

"As I was talking to Luke [with GM Rob Pelinka], we said don't worry about if we get out to a bad start," Johnson, the Lakers' president of basketball operations, said Thursday as the team's brass met with the media. "We have seen that with LeBron [James] going to Miami, and we have seen that when he came back to Cleveland. He is going to struggle because there are so many new moving parts. But eventually we are going to get it, and we are going to be really a good team."

The Lakers added veterans such as James, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley in free agency to go with a young developing core of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. In addition to adding multiple players who have been at their best with the ball in their hands, the Lakers injected their locker room with some strong and unique personalities.

Some executives and coaches around the league have wondered how the Lakers and Walton, who is entering his third season as a head coach, will make all the pieces fit.

Pelinka said Walton will be helped by his championship pedigree, which he developed while playing under Phil Jackson in Los Angeles and serving as an assistant under Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors.

"I think Luke is perfectly positioned because he understands the modern player," said Pelinka, who said he also is excited about the depth the Lakers have amassed this offseason. "He's young, he's played at a high level, won championships, has a great way of communicating with people, has a genuine air and keeping guys engaged. We think our roster and its strengths actually lines up perfectly with our coach and his strengths."

After helping lead the Warriors to a 39-4 start as interim coach while he was an assistant under Kerr during the 2015-16 season, Walton was hired as Lakers coach before the 2016-17 season and before Johnson and Pelinka were hired in February 2017 to replace the previous regime of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.

Walton won 26 games his first season before improving the Lakers to 35-47 last season. Now he has veterans in James and Rondo to help lead the team while trying to figure out the best ways to make all the new pieces fit.

Johnson said Walton will figure out the best way to utilize the roster, but emphasized that the Lakers will look to run often.

"We're going to run," Johnson said. "Whoever gets it, we're gone. ... We've got a number of ball handlers, that's how we built this team. We won't rely just on LeBron making all the shots for people -- in terms of creating the shots for people or himself. We want him also to play off of it, but that's on Luke. I'm not here to tell you how the offense is going to go because that's not my job and that's not Rob's job. Luke will handle that situation and he's already been thinking about ways and utilizing not just LeBron but everybody."

"We're excited for Luke and his coaching staff. I think that Luke has been working very hard to figure out how to utilize all the pieces," Johnson added. "Luke's a winner. He's been a winner as a player, he's a winner up at Golden State. He'll be a winner here too. People think it's a problem when you have a lot of talent. No, we want a lot of talent. I think a coach wants a lot of talent. He'll know how to put them in a winning position."