During his first appearance with the media since accepting the Lakers coaching job, Walton dished out nearly as much praise for the team's young core of Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance, Jr. as they received over the entire two years under former head coach Byron Scott.
There were reports after Walton was hired that a major reason he took the job was because he was "high" on the Lakers' young talent and thought D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle could be All-Stars, and he confirmed these reports to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times after the Golden State Warriors' practice on Saturday, starting with the versatile forward the Lakers hope Walton can help polish:
Walton on Julius Randle: "That kid averaged 10 rebounds a game as pretty much a rookie? That's insane. This is a grown-man league."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) April 30, 2016
He also has high hopes for the Lakers' other recent lottery pick:
Walton on D'Angelo: "He has very high potential. To me, he can be a perennial All-Star." Likes how he can score from 3-pt range + the post.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) April 30, 2016
As a role player during his career, Walton learned every team needs players to do the dirty work. He hopes Larry Nance, Jr. can fill that role in Los Angeles:
Walton on Nance Jr.: "You're going to have superstars that end up on SportsCenter every night but you need guys doing the little things."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) April 30, 2016
And finally, the Lakers new coach sounds like he definitely wants to keep the team's biggest (restricted) free agent around:
Walton on Clarkson: "He's another active athlete. He's constantly in attack mode, which is what you want." Walton likes his work ethic too.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) April 30, 2016
This type of praise for the young players coming from a Lakers coach is a refreshing change from last season. This group of players still has a lot of work to do to live up to their new head coach's expectations, but Walton seems like the type of hire that can help them reach their ceiling.
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