After a porous month of December and losing streak that stretched to nine games, the Los Angeles Lakers finished their homestand on a positive note. Winners of three straight, a season-high, the team has renewed optimism about them despite still being well below .500.
Even as the losses began to pile up and outside distractions persisted, Lakers head coach Luke Walton maintained his steady approach. “It’s a challenge,” he said of remaining even-keeled amidst a losing stretch. “But I learned that.
“I didn’t understand it, but I learned it from Phil Jackson when I got drafted here as a player. I was a very emotional player. Every loss was the end of the world and every win was the greatest night of all-time. He always talked about staying in the middle. That’s when you’re your most dangerous.”
Prior to detailing some of the specifics behind his approach and mindset, Walton said he was generally pleased with the Lakers through the midway point of the season. And added as the second half begins, he would not evaluate success solely on wins or losses.
That further falls in line with what the team hears from Walton on a regular basis. “We don’t try to be too high, we don’t try to be too low. We know what we’re building towards. There’s going to be more losing streaks ahead, there’s going to be more winning streaks,” he said.
“It’s about us continuing to get better and the way we do that is we continue to work hard whether we win or lose. We continue to have winning habits, we continue to trust each other as a team.
“We have goals every night of we want to come out and play as hard as we can and win, and then we have goals of where we want to be as a team at the end of the season. We just keep working towards those.”
Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma have been among those to publicly embrace the team-first mentality. Having learned through Jackson on how to remain balanced, Walton is well aware the responsibility now falls on his shoulders.
“Now that’s my job to keep the same pulse with our young team,” Walton said.