The idea that the Los Angeles Lakers young core is playing for and wants to win for their new head coach Luke Walton, isn’t new, but it is recurring, and that consistency is a sign that whatever Walton is doing to bring this group together, it’s working. That includes, bringing third-year guard Jordan Clarkson off the bench, despite proving that he’s deserving of that starter title.
“I would run through a wall for coach right now,” Clarkson said on Monday’s practice. “He’s doing such a good job. We want to get wins for him as well as ourselves.” That bench role is working, by the way. The Lakers bench is averaging 50.6 points per game, the best mark in the NBA.
The Lakers are currently putting any sense of individual pride aside for the growth of this team.
During Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, players fought over wanting the defensive assignment of guarding Devin Booker, who dropped 39 points in the Lakers victory. At one point, Walton chose Nick Young to guard Booker, despite Clarkson actively voicing that he wanted the challenge.
“I love it, I absolutely love it,” Walton said about Clarkson’s frustration that he wasn’t chosen to guard Booker. “That means to me, that they’re starting to take accountability and ownership for the team, as they should, this is their team.”
“It shows everybody’s will to win and do whatever for coach to be honest with you,” Clarkson said.
Julius Randle was the first to express a couple weeks ago that there was a feeling this team wanted to make Walton look good, just as much as they wanted to make themselves look good. On Monday, Randle took it another step further.
“He wants to run through a wall for us too, like I said, he has our back,” Randle explained. “When you have someone that truly cares about you, its just a different feeling.”
“We’re not playing perfect at all, but we’re competing, and we’re fighting and when it gets down to crunch time, we’re all locked in on what we need to do,” Randle said.
That will and fight is all Walton can ask for. Despite still struggling in the fouls and turnover department, the Lakers are figuring out how to come out on top, starting off their season with a winning record (4-3), for the first time since December of 2013.
“For sure,” Clarkson responded when asked about the start of this season feeling that much sweeter, because of the struggle of his first two years. “A lot of build up in us wanting to win. Getting hammered in those two years that I was here didn’t feel good. Us winning games feels a lot better, and the vibe is crazy. We’ve got a chance to do something a lot of people didn’t expect us to do.”