Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton didn’t pull any punches following his team’s loss to the Denver Nuggets last week, with second-year guard Jamal Murray the subject of Walton’s pointed remarks.
But in the days since he referred to Murray’s actions as disrespectful, which Walton noted was a second such occurrence this season, the Lakers head coach has grown more diplomatic and dismissed the notion of any lingering animosity.
“No different than any other team,” said Walton at Tuesday’s shootaround about the Lakers’ relationship or perception of the Nuggets.
“I don’t think anything has really gone down. It’s competition, it’s sports. It’s not like this is a huge rivalry game or anything like that. In my opinion, it’s two good, young teams and teams that are going to be relevant in the future for a while.
“Our message is still about us and what we’re trying to do. There isn’t extra motivation. We’ve got bigger goals. The only message is we need to play better. We didn’t play hard enough in Denver.”
Walton added he doesn’t “anticipate” any sort of retaliation by his team or for there to be carryover from last week’s finish. If Murray is to continue with his antics, it likely will involve Lonzo Ball.
For no real reason the rookie point guard has drawn the ire of Murray. “It’s been happening my whole life,” Ball said of serving as a target for opponents.
“I just go out there and play. I have fun playing regardless of who the opponent is,” he added when asked if he relishes any head-to-head matchups. “I go out there and play basketball. I want to beat everybody. I don’t need extra motivation. I look forward to playing every night.”
Ball said Walton implored the Lakers to “stay true to the team” and ignore whatever Murray or the Nuggets may attempt to bait them into compromising situations.
Whereas Ball and Walton backed away from putting emphasis on it, Kyle Kuzma openly embraced facing the Nuggets once again. He said as much following the Lakers’ loss in Denver, and reiterated after they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I can’t wait,” Kuzma said. “Should be good.”