The Los Angeles Lakers went 1-3 on a ridiculous four games in five nights road trip. Lakers head coach Luke Walton didn’t think the schedule made any sense, and the team’s record showed why, especially when they dropped the final two games due to a combination of travel, fatigue, and injuries building up.
The team had every reason to quit. By the end of the trip, they were missing D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jr., Nick Young, and Jose Calderon. Julius Randle was dealing with an ailing hip, and the entire roster was trying to overcome the fatigue that comes with trying to play four freaking games in five freaking nights.
Despite all of those factors, the Lakers didn’t roll over in the final game of the road trip. After losing by 33 points in Toronto, the team rallied to fight a (admittedly injury-plagued) Memphis Grizzlies team to the final possession. Walton noticed, and think that’s what everyone should be focused on:
Luke Walton after 103-100 LAL loss to Grizz on @SpectrumSN (1/2): "We’re a young team with injuries and...— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 4, 2016
Luke (2/2): “...It’s more important that we focus on the fact that on the 4th game in 5 nights our guys showed up & competed our tails off."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 4, 2016
Luke: “Instead of focusing on the disappointment of a loss I want to focus on the positiveness of the way that we got after it.”— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 4, 2016
Walton is right. Before the Lakers got off to a far better than expected start to the season, the hope for the young team was that they’d battle every night. Just because they’re more successful than almost anyone predicted doesn’t mean those expectations should change.
Brandon Ingram is showing signs of how great he can be. Randle has morphed into one of the team’s best and most important players. Jordan Clarkson and Nance, Jr. have been valuable sparks off of the bench. More importantly, they’ve done so mostly in close losses or even victories, meaning they’re gaining more valuable experience than if they were balling out in garbage time.
These are all huge developments for the Lakers’ young core, and they can’t be ignored even if the team falls back to earth amid a rough, road game heavy December. Walton hasn’t lost sight of that, and neither should the team’s fans.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.