There has been nothing on the court to judge him on, but since taking the Los Angeles Lakers’ head coaching job Luke Walton has consistently hit all of the right notes in the press. The former Golden State Warriors assistant has spoken of wanting to create a positive culture for his young team, and while there are a lot of promising players on the roster, no amount of positivity is going to make the Lakers’ have a ton of success on the court this year.
Walton has been around the NBA long enough to know that team’s in the nascent stages of a rebuild like the one the Lakers are currently undergoing don’t win a lot of games. To his credit, the first-year head coach has done nothing to put pressure on his players to succeed right away. Instead, he told Chris McGee of Time Warner Cable Sportsnet that he’ll be happy with progress and good habits.
“Here's the thing: I'm not looking at it right now personally as if we win this many games we had a successful year,” Walton told McGee when asked if he was prepared for a long rebuild. “We have a very good, young group of players that the Lakers have put together. We have some good vets to come in that have great work ethic, that are known throughout the league as being phenomenal teammates, they can help this process.
“To me, I'm judging our success-- at least for now, who knows how long it takes-- on how we play,” Walton continued. “Are we playing the right way? Are we moving the ball? Are we competing on defense? Are we growing individually and as a team? If we're doing those things, then we're having success, and I think once we do those things and we do them consistently, now wins are going to start happening.“
Walton’s former head coach and mentor Phil Jackson was notorious for avoiding timeouts when his teams were on the wrong end of a run. Unlike a certain coach filling his seat the last few years, Walton doesn’t sound like he’ll panic and lose patience with the young players he’s charged with developing in favor of leaning on his veterans.
“I think the thing you have to be careful for is if you have a losing streak or if you're struggling a little bit is the jump ship, and start trying to change everything and panic to win a game here or there,” Walton said. “In reality whether we're winning or losing I think it's more important that we are continuing to play a certain way.”
If the Lakers continue to play the way Walton wants and continue to build the right habits on and off the court, he’s confident the on-court results will come. The Lakers may not become a juggernaut this season, but if Walton’s lessons take and the players put in the work, he believes they’ll be there sooner rather than later.
“With learning new things there's always going to be some setbacks because guys aren't used to it,” said Walton. “But then all of a sudden they start clicking and start playing better off of each other, and now all of a sudden as a group we're a much better team and a much more dangerous team."
It won’t be an overnight process, but the Lakers seem to finally be heading in the right direction.
All quotes transcribed via Time Warner Cable Sportsnet. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.