Coming off less than a week’s worth of practices during training camp, LeBron James and the new-look Los Angeles Lakers take the court Sunday night for the start of a six-game preseason schedule.
Similar to his focus in training camp during previous years, Walton emphasized defense. He felt it was particularly necessary heading into this season, because of the number of new players on the roster. “We’re starting over again,” Walton said.
“Some of the younger players know the drills and know what we’re doing, but even putting in a drill, we start over and explain it because we have new guys. There’s a lot of teaching and pausing right now that we’ll pick up on and be able to flow a little easier. It’s important for us right now to get our foundation set. It’s going through and putting in our belief systems, the way we do things, what’s important to us, and then just doing it every day.”
And though the Lakers now get to take the court in live-game settings, Walton very much views the preseason as an extension of training camp. “For us, we’re looking at the whole preseason as getting ready for the whole season,” he explained.
“Not that we have to be ready for Sunday’s game in San Diego. So we’re going to use Sunday where it’s like a practice day almost. In the game, we’ll work on what we’re working on, like trying to get good at our basics, our foundation still. Even if that means we run three plays for the entire game.”
Walton regularly praised his players for their competitiveness, attention to detail and willingness to learn during training camp. His relationship with James will face constant scrutiny, but it’s off to a positive start and the two are aligned in the approach being taken.
“I’m just excited to see the good work we’ve been putting in this week,” James said. “I’m seeing things we can do very well, things that we don’t do so well, so we can work on the next day in practice. Training camp is all the way to the first day of the regular season, so we have some time.”
He previously gave Walton and the Lakers coaching staff a stamp of approval for their handling of practices. James will play in the Lakers’ preseason opener but his minutes and what ensuing games entail has not yet been decided.