Archives For luke walton

The 2016-17 Lakers got off to a surprising 10-10 start, allowing the more optimistic fans amongst us to entertain the possibility of Luke Walton hoisting the Coach of the Year Award after an improbable playoff push. Then the clock struck midnight, with the Lakers losing 31 of their next 41, turning a season that began with such positivity into yet another year where many of us prayed to the NBA Lottery gods while cursing every April victory.

So what happened? And how does it impact the 2017-18 season? The answer lies in the lineup data below: Continue Reading…

The Lakers are 2-1 this preseason and, had it not been for a makeshift lineup of fighting-to-make-the-roster players losing a 4th quarter lead, they would probably be 3-0. The record has caveats attached — it’s only preseason!, teams are not playing their starters heavy minutes, rotations are wonky — but after three years of heavy losing, you’ll have to forgive some fans for feeling good about the W’s.

Even with the team playing well to start the exhibition season, their approach hasn’t come without some raised eyebrows. Namely, fans are wondering about the team’s starting lineup and why Luke Walton has had Lou Williams in with the first five instead of Jordan Clarkson while also turning to Metta World Peace and Nick Young instead of Brandon Ingram while Luol Deng has sat out with a sore knee.

Walton’s turn towards veterans shouldn’t be that surprising and that’s before even hearing his reasoning. As much as we would like to view Luke as the anti-Byron Scott, things are never so simple. Yes, Walton comes off as more thoughtful when explaining things to the media. He also offers his players much more praise than his predecessor did. And, of course, his offensive philosophy is more modern and indicative of a forward thinking approach.

But, when it comes to certain coaching values, I would imagine Luke and Byron have some overlap. We have already heard some soundbites which suggest as much. So, Walton following up those quotes with ones about wanting “more experience/a veteran” presence in the starting lineup when discussing Lou over Clarkson or his turning to Metta/Young in favor of Ingram shouldn’t really be shocking.

Beyond the rhetoric, however, there’s also the nuts and bolts of building a rotation and constructing a lineup. And while, on the surface, starting Lou over Clarkson seems hard to posit when putting it into the context of how pieces fit, there are arguments to be made in support of the move.

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In the months since he was named head coach of the Lakers, Luke Walton has done a good job of resetting expectations to appropriate levels. He’s spoken about his desires to build a winning culture, but has been careful to not equate that to actual wins. In fact, he’s done the opposite by stating — several times, actually — that this team should not be judged by wins and losses early on.

All of this has been very strategic on Walton and the front office’s parts. After years of selling the myth of the “ultimate goal being a championship” while constructing rosters not built to even make the playoffs, the Lakers have, seemingly, learned their lessons. They hired a young coach, targeted specific veterans at positions of need, and have put the young players front and center as key pieces who need development.

However, just because things seem new; just because Luke Walton is seen as the anti-Bryon Scott, it does not mean there is a complete departure from all ideas which existed under the previous regime. Take Walton’s recent quotes about the Lakers being “built around” the young players:

I don’t think we’re built around the young guys. Obviously they’re a huge part of what we’re doing and developing them, but we brought in some good vets that we feel are really going to help lead in Kobe’s absence. We’re going to be doing our best to develop these guys, but we’re going to be playing the guys who are helping us win and playing the right way and competing every night. We feel like we have some vets who have done that for a lot of years in this league. So we’re going to lean heavily on them as well.

Wait, there’s more. Here he is on whether Brandon Ingram will need to “earn his spot” in the rotation:

Absolutely. Everyone has to earn a spot. You come into camp and you compete against your other players, you respect your teammates, but whoever outplays the next guy in line, that’s who gets to start.

Now, let’s grab Doc Brown, hop in the Delorean, set the date for the summer of 2015, and ramp up the speed to 88 miles per hour. Now re-read the quotes above. Could you hear Byron Scott uttering the same words Walton did? I can.

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One of the ongoing themes of Luke Walton’s hire has been how he wants to rebuild the Lakers’ culture. Coming from the Warriors, Walton has expressed a desire to import the competitive drive and having the proper edge and approach to the work which needs to be done. Yes, he wants his players to have fun, but he wants to ensure he is instilling the proper values in his players.

Building a culture is one of the most important things Walton is tasked with. While ultimate leadership of the franchise starts with ownership, the coach is more than just a bystander in this process. The coach is the one who has the players’ ears, the one who holds them accountable, the one who establishes the daily environment of work.

Walton knows this better than anyone as he came from a team where one of the things the head coach did was tweak the previous culture (and schemes) from those of his predecessor to better galvanize his players and get the most out of them. Walton will need to do the same with these young Lakers. And it will likely need to be more than just a tweak. This leadership will be instrumental in any success he and his team have.

But with a team so young as the one he inherits, Walton will need to be more than a leader, he will need to be a teacher as well. I have said this before, but young players make mistakes. The expectation is that they will learn from them, that over time they will catalog those miscues and put themselves in position to not make them again.

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About a month after Kobe Bryant’s last game and in the wake of the Lakers hiring Luke Walton as their head coach, Mitch Kupchak spoke about the hire, the direction of the team, what his expectations were for the upcoming season. It was, for me at least, a refreshing five minutes where Kupchak acknowledged his goals for this season were to play a fun brand of basketball and to see incremental improvement from his young players.

Of course, since that time a lot has happened to affect the outlook of the team.

In the two months since that interview to today, the Lakers found out they would keep their draft pick. They then selected Brandon Ingram #2 overall and Ivica Zubac — who ranked 16th on their draft board — fell to them in the 2nd round. They signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov as outside free agents and re-upped Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black, and Marcelo Huertas. They also traded for Jose Calderon.

They really do have a new team now. So have expectations changed? If you listen to Luke Walton tell it, not really.  Continue Reading…

Since it was reported Brian Shaw would return to the Lakers as Luke Walton’s lead assistant, it has been pretty quiet on the “who will be on Luke Walton’s staff” front. No leaks of names who were shoe-ins, not even any hints at who might be under consideration.

That changed over the weekend when Dave Miller brought up a name I was unfamiliar with:

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While I fully support and endorse the Lakers hiring Luke Walton, hiring him, specifically, doesn’t come without potential logistical hiccups. Walton, after all, is still employed, fulfilling his responsibilities as the Warriors’ lead assistant as they look to defend their title. As Walton helps Steve Kerr and the Warriors, then, he’s not able to yet move into his role as head man for the Lakers — at least as long as the Dubs are still in the playoffs.

With the Lakers getting a taste of lady luck by holding onto their draft pick on Tuesday night, they will soon start to hold pre-draft workouts of top prospects (they have already been working out prospects for their 2nd round pick). Only with Walton still working for the Warriors, he’s not likely to be around for many — if any — of them. TNT and’s David Aldridge has the report:

So Walton may have to miss a number of Predraft workouts the Lakers schedule with some of the top Draft prospects. The Lakers are taping every workout for him to view when he can. Walton and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak text each other every day and talk on the phone when possible, but the Lakers are being very respectful of Walton’s remaining days at Golden State.

In the meantime, Walton is continuing to try and convince Brian Shaw to join his Lakers coaching staff. But Shaw is also being wooed by new Pacers head coach Nate McMillan for a similar position, according to sources. Ideally, Shaw would serve as Walton’s proxy in L.A. during the Predraft workouts.

This isn’t the most ideal situation for the Lakers. In a perfect world Walton would be present, offering his thoughts and providing his opinion on players the Lakers may end up selecting. His insight on how a guy might fit into what he plans to run on offense and defense, his perspective on their skill set, and him generally getting a better feel for who these guys are as people by being in the room has real value. Some things might translate over tape or via communications with staff who are present, but in the end I’m sure even Luke would say nothing can fully replace being present.

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In the past week, names like Brian Shaw and Chris DeMarco have been floated as possible options as assistant coaches on Luke Walton’s staff. DeMarco is familiar with Walton due to ties with the Warriors where DeMarco is a player development coach after working in the video room and in advance scouting. Shaw, of course, has ties to Walton from their time with the Lakers where Shaw as an assistant while Luke a player on Phil Jackson’s teams.

Both guys fit the mold of the type of theoretical staff I would imagine Walton would build. They offer a mix of young and experienced, a guy who worked his way up through an organization and a former player who has championship experience on the floor and from the bench. Finding the right balance, I think, is vital for any staff, but especially for a coach like Walton who needs to surround himself with like minded guys, but also those with more experience with him who can offer a varied perspective and, at times, challenge him as he strives to improve as a first time head coach (and not just an interim one).

This is all speculation on my part, though. Luke Walton has not gone on the record of what he’s looking for in his staff and the names floated were, themselves, based on speculative reports from league and Warriors’ insiders. But while we don’t have insight from Luke, we do, luckily, have some from Mitch Kupchak who spoke with the media on Friday about Walton’s hiring. And in those comments, Kupchack hinted at the type of assistant Walton and the Lakers (who will have input on this) will be looking for.

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