Laker Players Praise New Coach Luke Walton
They Talk Fondly About His Positive Approach
September 29, 2016
The Lakers held the annual media day on Monday and opened training camp in Santa Barbara Tuesday eager to please their new coach.
Luke Walton has already pleased them.
In the off season since Walton replaced Byron Scott the young players who experienced a 17-65 season a year ago were pleased with his positive approach.
Without question, Walton and the players bonded.
The test, of course will be in how the team does when the wins and losses follow. Nice guy Walton, who encourages them, is great for now but how will he respond if the losses mount and the Lakers don't come close to making the playoffs for a fourth straight season?
Scott went along with management's focus on player development last season until he benched rookies and went with more experienced players as the losses mounted.
"Luke has all the confidence in the world in us," said forward Julius Randle. 'He just wants us to succeed."
Forward Luol Deng, an NBA veteran at age 32 but a newcomer to the Lakers, has quickly picked up on something important about Walton.
"The guys love playing for him," said Deng. "I've talked to some players on Golden State where he coached last season and they said the same thing."
At 36 Walton is the youngest head coach in the NBA."
Nick Young may or may not make the roster when the 20 players for training camp must be reduced to 15 for the regular season. The Lakers tried to trade him in the summer but found no takers. He'll receive all of the $11 million remaining on his contract if they release him. However, Young wants to stay.
"Luke is a cool dude," said Young. "A players coach."
In the first major announcement Walton has made regarding the upcoming season he said forward Brandon Ingram, the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, won't be a starter at first.
But on media day Walton took a step backward.
"I was speaking on general terms bccause it usually takes a rookie just out of college some time to adjust to the NBA," said Walton. "But we're going o training camp and if Brandon earns a starting position he will start."
When Ingram heard he would begin the season as a reserve he replied "I'll just find a way to work harder."
Most NBA experts believe the Lakers won't be a strong contender for a playoff berth. If they're vastly improved over a season ago and double their victory total of 17 that would be 34, far short of what's needed to get into the playoffs.
More likely they'll be more competitive than last season as a first step in quest of an eventual playoff spot.