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Luke Walton relishing challenge of coaching LeBron James-less Lakers

Luke Walton, LeBron James, Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton is relishing the challenge of coaching this team while LeBron James recovers from a strained left groin injury. The Lakers have gone 4-7 during James’ 11 absences, and they’re bound for two more tests without him, according to James’ agent and longtime friend Rich Paul.

“It’s the best job in the world and I love the challenge that we have,” Walton told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne in a recent interview. “It’s challenging, it’s hard, it’s sleepless nights. But it’s also awesome.”

This is virtually the same job he had the last two seasons with the team, except with hundredfold of the pressure to win and make the playoffs after a long dry spell for the purple and gold.

“I’m up at night thinking about: What’s practice look like tomorrow? Where’s the focus of practice?” said Walton. “We got to keep things simple because it’s new lineups playing together. It’s young players, playing.

“So it’s trying to constantly find what that balance is between where we’re at and taking the proper, patient steps to get the team up to where we need to be.”

Walton won’t bother questioning how tough his job is without his best player, but prefers to look ahead at the task at hand.

“Look, I knew this was going to be hard,” said Walton. “But, s***, that’s part of the excitement. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be as fun of a challenge.”

The Lakers have slipped from a fourth seed after mollywopping the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day to slipping out of the playoffs recently, only to regain the eighth spot with a 107-100 win over the lowly Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.

Many expected this decline to put Walton on the hot seat, but the latest reports indicate he has the faith of owner Jeanie Buss, who could potentially veto override any decision made by the front-office tandem of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.