The Los Angeles Lakers are in the early stages of building a new basketball identity during training camp, molding a very different looking roster into something they hope is greater than before. Considering only eight of the 20 training camp roster members were on the team last year, this is going to take time.
The Lakers’ first preseason game is Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and if the team looks a bit incomplete on either end of the floor, don’t be alarmed. Head coach Luke Walton knows there’s no way to cram everything he wants to teach his team into the first few days of camp, but he’s not worried about that.
“I've already made the decision that we're just going to sacrifice some of what we would put in before our first game, as opposed to try and get everything in. There's a list of things we want to get in before you play a game, and we're just not going to get to it all, and we're fine with that,” Walton said following the first practice of training camp.
Walton taking a measured approach to a huge undertaking might be the right move. The second-year head coach is taking another swing at setting up his team for success, and doesn’t want to gloss over any of the details.
Brandon Ingram is one of the key players that saw how the Lakers’ first training camp under Walton went. He’s already seeing a more productive environment than last time around.
“Even now, they're putting bits and pieces together. I think it's more structured. How to build out, how to defend your guy, how to help defense, trusting in each other. So, I think it's just more structured now,” Ingram said.
Asked to elaborate on what being more “structured” means, Ingram jumped right in.
“In the way that the practice is organized, and also in the way that the coaches are coaching. They're teaching you what to do when you do it, or making you do it over-and-over again. They're trying to make it a habit by telling you to maybe put the stick hand up, maybe slide your feet. They're just trying to get you to talk and do it over-and-over again so it becomes a habit,” Ingram said.
Walton hasn’t gone into much detail with media yet about what kind of adjustments he’s hoping to make, though he did directly mention he wants all five players on the court defensive rebounding, and wants to allow Lonzo Ball the freedom to go up for offensive rebounds when they’re in his reach.
Beyond that, though, it seems the Lakers are definitely changing up some of the tactics they implemented last season.
“You always should come back to at least the basic fundamentals, but once you get those in, then you can move on quicker. With so many [new] faces, with what we're doing, and the fact that we're changing up a lot of our offense and defense principles from last year, we're going to take our time with that,” Walton said.
It’s notable that Walton not only tweaked his approach to handling training camp, but some of the strategies the team employs. That’s not uncommon at all as personnel change happens every season, but it’s an important task for every head coach. Coach Luke is developing his style much like his young players are.
Whatever it is Walton, the front office and the coaching staff is doing differently this time around, Brandon thinks it’s been an effective way to get through to the team.
“Of course it's early to say, but it looks like a lot of people are buying in. With the coaches, whatever they're implementing to our defense, a lot of guys are trying to buy in. They're teaching principles that of course are going to build habits, but right now we're just trying to learn and listen to whatever they're saying,” Ingram said.
Piece by piece, brick by brick, the Lakers are building up from the rubble that was Walton’s first season leading the purple and gold. The initial signs are promising, but don’t expect a completed puzzle this early in the process. The Lakers must crawl before they can walk, and Luke isn’t rushing his training camp into half measures to beat the shot clock.
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com