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Luke Walton: Lakers need to learn to handle success

Which comes first: the chicken or the egg?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have had little success to mishandle in recent years, but their head coach isn’t impressed by the tone after wins. This sounds like the classic chicken-and-egg situation.

Are they bad at handling success because they have so little success to learn from? Or are they having so little success because they learn so little from it?

Whatever the answer to that pairing of questions might be, Luke Walton is trying to find legitimate, sustainable answers. He’s going about it in his typical, nuanced way, which is still nice to see.

Quotes via Baxter Holmes of

“We have a team that when we have some success, we relax,” Walton said Monday after practice at the team’s facility. “That’s our natural state. I wouldn’t say ‘satisfied,’ but it’s almost that type of feeling. In this league, with as much as you play, when you win one game, you’ve got to let that go by the next morning, whether it’s practice or shootaround on a back-to-back. You’ve got to be completely ready to start over, refocus and bring that same type of energy level again the next night out. We haven’t figured that out as a group yet.”

The issue shows itself in the midst of games, too. The Lakers struggle to piece short runs together into meaningful ones of the double-digit variety. Good teams turn five-to-seven-points run into 13-15-point runs with some semblance of regularity.

For the Lakers, however, three-pointers are typically followed up by some type of heat check or isolation play with the idea that if that shot is missed, they can get the next one. Then, before they know it, Walton is calling timeout having watched that seven-point run evened out by a combination of poor shot selection and even worse defense.

Which brings us to the next point: The already bad and somehow worsening defense feels like an extension of the immaturity Walton mentioned above. When offense comes as easily as it can for the Lakers at times, there can be a tendency to think they can just outscore opponents. Problem is: because of the inconsistency on the offensive end, combined with consistent complacency on the other, the Lakers have become, well, a bad basketball team.

Walton did add some optimism to what’s become a pretty annoying issue, again via Holmes.

“I know our group is going to figure it out,” Walton said. “We’re not there, but we’re going to get there. I’m not concerned about it. When it’s going to happen, I don’t know, but we’re going to get there.

As annoying as it might be to continue to hear the explanation of youth across the roster, said reasoning isn’t going anywhere until, you know, the team gets older, more mature and less easily complacent.

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