The Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies squared off on Saturday night in very similar predicaments. Both teams have first year head coaches (Luke Walton for the Lakers, David Fizdale for the Grizzlies), and are dealing with a rash of injuries.
The Memphis Grizzlies were missing starters Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, and a couple of other lesser known players. Meanwhile the Lakers were without D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Larry Nance Jr., and lost point guard Jose Calderon in the first quarter.
Nonetheless both teams put forth a hard-fought effort with the Grizzlies ultimately coming out on top 103-100. But the Lakers’ effort did not go unnoticed to Fizdale who started off his press conference by praising the job Walton has done with the Lakers via Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com:
“Actually, I am going to say something tonight before we get started,” Fizdale said at his postgame press conference, “and that is Luke Walton is a hell of a coach. It’s as simple as that. He’s dealing with the same things that we’re dealing with and somehow he’s getting that team not only to compete, but play well. I mean, what a heck of a coach he is. I am scared to see him in 10 years and how good he’s going to be if he’s already doing this with the team.”
Injury issues aside, Walton and the Lakers definitely would have preferred to come out on the winning end on Saturday, but they just couldn’t close down the stretch. That being said, praise for Walton has become something of a theme this season.
His former boss Steve Kerr was very complimentary of him earlier this season as was San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. The Lakers have been one of the biggest stories of this season and Walton has a lot to do with that.
The next step for the Lakers is to get healthy and continue on their development path. Once Russell, Young and company return, the Lakers should be able to return to their previous level of play and possibly challenge for a playoff spot.