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Luke Walton says the Lakers need to decide if they want to be good now, or later

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Is the team satisfied with its progress, or do they want to make a larger leap back to respectability?

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers fell 101-89 in a nationally televised game against the Dallas Mavericks that didn’t feel as close as the 12-point margin of defeat would indicate. It was the team’s 14th loss in the month of December, the most defeats in the NBA over that timespan.

"Unfortunately, it seems like we're going to take a lot of these lumps," Walton told reporters on Spectrum Sportsnet following the loss, but he isn’t worried about the team’s future prospects.

“As a team we’re going to be fine,” Walton said. “We’re going to figure it out. 'When?' is the question. How much does it mean to us right now to figure it out this season, or do we want to wait two or three years as natural development happens?

“We’ve proven to ourselves that we’re capable of beating anyone in this league when we’re competing, and playing defense, and sharing the ball on offense,” Walton continued. “We have it within us to make that improvement, and to make it sooner rather than later, but a lot of it has to be individual desire to want it now.”

The Lakers didn’t look like they wanted anything against the Mavericks in the second half. The team scored just 32 points and their poor play left much of the roster searching for answers about why they’ve been so bad in second halves for the past month.

However, as Walton mentioned, the Lakers have shown that they can compete with the league’s best when healthy and putting forth the requisite intensity and effort. They also still have a very young core, with Brandon Ingram (19) D’Angelo Russell (20), Jordan Clarkson (24), Julius Randle (22) and Larry Nance, Jr. (23) all under 25 years of age. They shouldn’t be expected to peak just yet.

Can the Lakers overcome their inexperience to figure out their issues? Can the team make adjustments and come together and get good right now, as Walton indicates is possible?

“Time will tell,” Walton said. The Lakers certainly have plenty of time given the youth on their roster, but how much of it they’ll need to use is the question that will determine if they end the season as a mediocre team, or one of the NBA’s worst.

All quotes transcribed via Spectrum Sportsnet, and all stats per NBA.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.