A young player’s maturity being questioned is nothing new. Hell, at ages 19-21, I spent more time finding excuses to get out of class than time in said classes altogether. Still, one has to ask from time to time if question the youth’s maturity is simply an easy way out of looking within? While Byron Scott was coaching the Lakers, a bit of both was almost definitely true. He was an awful coach, and the kids had a lot to learn.
That said, his job was to teach, and he didn’t.
So, when Luke Walton opens his press conference by praising the Lakers’ maturity only a few months after Scott’s tenure ended, that little time that has passed must be noted. Either the Lakers experienced the kind of epiphany Ebenezer Scrooge would be proud of, or the message was lost along the way. Both parties deserve their share of the blame, but just listen to Luke talk about this team (via Lakers.com)
“They’re more mature than I think a lot of people would guess, or give them credit for. Because, to come off that kind of win, not have a shoot-around this morning and come out and play that way. ... I told the guys defensively we looked great. ... We had a chance to have a big lead because of the way we defended, and from a coaching staff (standpoint), that shows you that these guys want to win and that they’re engaged.”
Look, I get that some are sick of hearing people complain about Byron. He won as a Laker and somehow that means he slides by even despite being (almost inarguably) the worst coach in American professional sports history. But when you hear Luke talk about this group the way he does, it’s not hard to see why the kids play hard for him night in, and night out. Older generations would say the praise should follow the solid play, but as we’ve evolved, we’ve learned that praise can help ignite it.
In this case, Walton’s recognizing the maturity involved with not letting down after beating the Warriors will probably lead to continued maturity as the season moves along. Compare that to how Scott would take every opportunity to question that maturity, and it’s pretty easy to see what works with this group.
The Lakers are winning right now, so it’s easy to heap praise. Had they squandered a double-digit lead at home to an inferior Suns team, this story and Walton’s quotes are probably pretty different. But here these young Lakers are, above .500 after a pretty grueling open to the season and a few winnable games ahead. Recent success would make you feel pretty good about their chances.
You know what instills even further confidence in the group? Their coach’s belief, which extends to a trust amongst each other.
With 1:38 left in the game, Julius Randle and Tyson Chandler picked up double technical fouls. Seconds later, Randle found himself isolated on the wing with the crowd on its feet. A smile crossed his face and you knew he was soaking that moment in. Basketball was fun again.
Last year, there’s no doubt in my mind he tries to take Chandler off the dribble with a less-than 35 percent chance at something good happening. Sunday night, though, he saw Devin Booker creeping off Jordan Clarkson to help. He whipped a pass across the court to the open Clarkson, who drained the dagger. Game over. Trust rewarded.
The moment lasted less than 10 seconds, but it’s the kind of thing a team can build on while the Lakers put their history behind them.
For more on Walton’s comments and how the team is having quick success in their rebuild, listen to the latest episode of Locked on Lakers: