“You gotta get All-Star break outta you,” Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton told media gathered for the first official team practice since the NBA took its annual break. Basketball is back, which means the Lakers are back in the gym.
The franchise is focused on the final stretch of the season, set to resume action Friday night when they host the Dallas Mavericks. Walton had his team, with the two additions and subtractions he admitted are still an adjustment, back on the grind.
“Today was more technical, getting back to the structure and the details of what we want to do, mainly defensively,” Walton said.
The Lakers are on pace to crush their best winning percentage over the last five seasons, sitting at .404. The last time they were this high was back in 2013-14, with a .329. They need only four more wins to match that win total.
Walton has three goals to get them there and beyond in the final 25 games.
“Defensively get back to where we were. We want to be a Top-10 defensive team for these last 25 games. We want to continue to play at the pace that we’ve done, I think going into the break we were No. 1 in pace still. We want to continue to develop our young players. They need to keep playing, they need to keep getting reps, they need to keep finishing, learning how to win games,” Walton said.
“There’s a lot of little goals that we have that we talk about, but the main ones are defense, our pace offensively, and then continuing to give some of these young guys opportunities to grow knowing that we’re really gonna need them in the future.”
The Lakers should get a boost with Lonzo Ball likely set to return against the Mavericks, ironically the same team he suffered the knee injury against. They could certainly use it as well, hanging onto their three-game losing streak during the break.
“It unfortunately, from what I saw, had a lot to do with I think that we gave into fatigue honestly ...
“We gave into that physical and mental fatigue that comes at that time of the season, that with the wining we had been doing before that we were really still enjoying that feeling,” Walton said of what he thought was the main reason the switch turned off on the Lakers.
“I expect us to be much better now that the break is behind us.”
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com