When the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the New York Knicks last week, head coach Luke Walton challenged Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, the team’s building blocks for the future, to show more “passion and fire.”
The following game, Ball and Ingram combined for 50 points on 20-35 shooting from the field, 10 rebounds, 11 assists and four steals to lead the Lakers to a win over the Dallas Mavericks.
Since then, their performances have been hit or miss, but Walton told Sam Amick of The Athletic that he doesn’t regret challenging his two young cornerstones, and said that he only did so because he believes they’re capable of stepping up and leading the Lakers:
“It wasn’t like, ‘You guys suck.’ I tell them all the time, ‘I totally understand how hard it is. They’re 21 years old. People forget that. They think we should just be winning because we did win.
“Well, yeah, but we also went from a team that was building to losing major pieces of that team and then bringing in LeBron. And then we started winning a certain way with LeBron, at a high level, and then if you take him and Rondo and JaVale (McGee) out of that mix, and then even Kuzma gets hurt, and we’re sitting there again, and now we have to win games how we were winning them before, which is playing together, playing harder than the team we’re playing against, all the things that we had built in our core from the past two years because that was the only way we could win.
“So it wasn’t like, ‘You guys suck, step up and you need to do this.’ It was like, ‘I totally understand how hard this is, and there’s a lot of responsibility, and I believe that you can do it. Otherwise I wouldn’t tell you.’”
Both Ball and Ingram will have plenty of opportunities to prove Walton right over the next few games, as LeBron James will reportedly miss at least the next two games and possibly several more weeks.
Carrying that type of responsibility at their age isn’t easy, especially in the loaded Western Conference, but it’s what Ball and Ingram have to do if they want to win games until James comes back.
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