The Los Angeles Lakers hired Luke Walton to replace Byron Scott this summer, and it’s fair to say the team’s younger players are excited about their new leader. The whole team has spent the summer talking about the improved positivity around the team, and that narrative continued into media day.
"It’s a blessing from God," Lakers big man Tarik Black said on Spectrum Sportsnet of the Walton hiring. Black, who has known Walton since his time at Memphis as an assistant coach during the NBA lockout while Black was playing there.
Black and Walton’s familiarity has clearly helped build a strong relationship between the two, but the players who were just getting to know him were practically beaming at the chance to play for their new coach.
"Luke, he's a great coach," said Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram. "He's a great guy, he works hard. He actually gets in on some of our drills."
"He really changed the vibe for us," said Jordan Clarkson. "Made the game fun, as well as teaching us a lot as well."
"As a coach he has all the belief in you in the world," said Julius Randle. "He wants to see you succeed every day."
That new vibe has been at least partially responsible for the team’s enthusiasm to participate in their vaunted "Breakfast Club" voluntary offseason workouts.
"Last year... it was almost like you had to. That was the tradition," said D’Angelo Russell. "This year we wanted to."
This kind of positivity is par for the course for the preseason, a time when every team is undefeated and thinking about best case scenarios. It remains to be seen how the atmosphere around the team will be when they hit their first losing streak, but for now, Walton has the Lakers feeling like kids again.
"Honestly last night, I couldn't sleep," Russell said. "It's like the first day of school"
All quotes transcribed via Spectrum Sportsnet. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.