When LeBron James took a weird step back and slipped, straining his groin in the process, the Los Angeles Lakers were in the midst of a convincing win against the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Even despite James’ absence, the Lakers went on to rout Golden State on Christmas.
With that as evidence, Luke Walton has reason for confidence in his team. He sat down with Sam Amick of The Athletic for a wide-ranging conversation — including a very interesting tidbit about his relationship with Magic Johnson — about what has been quite an interesting third season as head coach of the Lakers.
And despite their continuing injury woes, Walton likes his team, no matter the opponent.
“With what we have, and with it being (pro) sports, if we can get healthy we can beat anyone,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often, but you look through the history of sports and there are teams that weren’t supposed to be ready or weren’t supposed to win (it all) that beat other teams, and we have – in my opinion – the best player in the world. And he has proven that he can do the impossible for however many straight years now, so can this be a special season? For sure.”
BREAKING: Luke Walton calls out the Warriors, their lame nicknames, and their m********** crew.
Look, you obviously never want to see any player go down with an injury — let alone if that player is one of the greatest ever to step on to a basketball court. But the Lakers seem to have stumbled onto something of late, with Lonzo Ball serving as the team’s pace-setter and everyone falling into line around him.
If the Lakers can somehow make that work whenever James comes back, their offense can make a ton of sense theoretically. Combine that with the defense they’ve played the last two games and the identity they had created right before James went down, and this team can be dangerous in any setting.
In the playoffs, few players have ever been as impactful as James, a one-man wrecking ball for NBA defenses when he’s operating at 100 percent effort and health. He’s also surrounded by others who have enjoyed quite a bit of playoff success themselves.
Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley have won titles. There’s enough playoff experience to make up for the lack thereof among the young core — though they’ll have to produce, don’t get me wrong.
Walton is right to have this much confidence. The team is starting to make sense in part thanks to having been thrown into the deep end in James’ absence. Could that outlook change? Absolutely. If they go away from some of the things they seem to have figured out recently, that step back could prove costly.
For now, however, the Lakers’ confidence in themselves is well-founded. It’s part of Walton’s job to maintain those positive vibes, and it’s great to see quotes like this during the good times. Here’s hoping we get them more often.