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Luke Walton's hire is the latest sign the Lakers want to embrace modern basketball

Los Angeles has had some high profile misses over the last few years. Will Walton be the latest?

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Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge didn't want to play here.


Mike Brown, cutting edge young coach, didn't work out here.


Mike D'Antoni, he who modernized the NBA with his now-legendary "Seven Seconds Or Less" pace and space offense, couldn't stick around here.


Steve Nash, who defied the laws of time and space for so many years, couldn't stay on the court here.


How many strikes make an out again?

Over the past five years, the Los Angeles Lakers have been a confounding quagmire of mammoth whiffs and strike outs, the result of which has ultimately yielded two of the worst seasons in franchise history. Never one for complacency, the organization has been anything but motionless in this stretch, if that's worth anything. They've constantly made moves, whether it be going through an almost Sacramento Kings-like rotation of coaches, cycling out personnel and flirting with free agents all across the board.

Not to simply weave a tale of negativity (as is my station), the Lakers have swung for the fences and had success over the past half-decade. Where many had a narrow focus on using the 2015 NBA Draft's second selection on Jahlil Okafor, LA instead picked D'Angelo Russell, a move that looked smarter and smarter as the season wore on.

They traded Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard, which didn't work out in regards to keeping Howard in free agency, but was still a great trade in hindsight. If not for Dwight, the Lakers very well could have offered Bynum a max contract extension, a decision that would no doubt haunt the franchise to this very day. They made a no-brainer pick at number seven in the 2014 NBA Draft, when they selected Julius Randle. There isn't a player taken after him that gives me pause at the pick, thus far.

But for the most part? Ankle-twisting, hurricane-inducing whiffs.

The Lakers have done it in all shapes and sizes. They've gone for the obvious big targets, in trying to sign free agents like LeBron, LaMarcus, Carmelo, Bosh and Howard. They've taken their stabs at the premier coaches, including D'Antoni and Brown. They traded for Steve Nash, a year after he averaged a double-double and was nearly a part of the 50/40/90 club once again. They banked on Kobe, literally and metaphorically, being able to buoy the franchise in his age 35-37 seasons and be one of, if not their brightest star.

All these moves have led to the crippling of the franchise. The Lakers have swung for the fences and struck out each time. To stick with the baseball metaphor, LA has consistently gone for the big, game-ending hit, rather than taking the time with singles, walks and stolen bases that ultimately yield runs. That's just not how the Lakers have gone about their business.

In the meantime, the Lakers have seen great coaches slip out of their grasp. Steve Clifford and Quin Snyder, both being lauded for the work they've done in Charlotte and Utah, respectively, were assistant coaches in the past few seasons. Ettore Messina, now an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs and a hot head coaching candidate, was also an assistant in Los Angeles.

In the meantime, the Lakers have seen "second tier" free agents go to other teams with nary an offer from LA. Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, Tobias Harris and Paul Millsap all signed elsewhere. Are any of these guys quite as good as say, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul or LaMarcus Aldridge. Maybe not. But title contenders aren't built overnight. They're built over time. For the Lakers, the goal was the biggest free agents for the biggest team in the NBA. They didn't accomplish that and in doing so, squandered the opportunity to sign a difference-making free agent.

In the meantime, the Lakers hoped for the best with Kobe and got the worst. Despite a surreal ending to a magnificent career, Bryant was either hurt or an on-court detriment the past three seasons. It was a miscalculation that cost the Lakers wins and cratered their efforts to build a team around an aging star.

Which brings us to Luke Walton's hire.

In many ways, it is the all-in move. It's the epitome of what the Lakers have become: a "go big or go home" attitude, combined with an sometimes hurtful reverence for the past. He was arguably the hottest name on the head coaching market, made all the more scorching by his connection to the purple and gold. There's no doubt that familiarity with the organization will help Walton in his acclimation in his new role, but one also has to wonder how many warts on his resume were excused simply because this was an easy sell to a fan base that knows, loves and respects him?

Luke is, allegedly, a new wave coach that can connect to younger players and attract potential free agents. He's coming from the most successful regular season team of all time and the reigning champions, not to mention a sparkling 39-4 record (that doesn't actually exist) at the interim helm of the Dubs. On the surface, it appears like the home run swing has finally connected after years and years of broken bats and shattered dreams.

I have my misgivings about Walton, for sure. He's got very little head coaching experience overall, despite what happened in the first 43 contests with the Warriors this year. Walton is said to embrace analytics, but who knows if that Lakers have the personnel in the organization to support it. Sure, he'll be able to connect easier with young players than the gruff Byron Scott, but will he be able to control them? And while it may look good to some that the Lakers hired him after one interview and canceling their meetings with all other candidates, it also looks like a completely capricious, impulsive decision.

Contrary to popular belief, the Lakers haven't been a backwards-thinking, archaic organization for the past half decade. Well, not completely anyway. They've tried to stay ahead of the curve. Mike D'Antoni and Mike Brown, despite the final results, were coaches that were hired with eyes forward. There's a reason why Phil Jackson wasn't permitted a round three on the STAPLES Center sidelines. D'Angelo Russell was picked over Jahlil Okafor when looking at the modern NBA and where the league was headed. Julius Randle, a ball-handling, athletic forward, was selected over the more plodding, deliberate Noah Vonleh. They tried bringing Pau Gasol off the bench when they realized that two big men like him and Dwight Howard couldn't play together in today's league.

So which is Luke Walton's hire? Is he the latest strikeout? Is he the home run hit? Is he the "smart move" that turns out to be a mere ghost story? Or is his hire the great step forward that Lakers fans have been hoping for for years?

It's hard to tell at the moment. But no one can accuse this front office of not trying. They're trying to play on the cutting edge. They've been trying for years.

Here's hoping they don't fall off.



--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino

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