After multiple seasons spent focusing on developing their young players, expectations changed for head coach Luke Walton and the Los Angeles Lakers when LeBron James signed a four-year contract.
While the organization still stressed a need for patience, not only to allow the young core to continue improving but also for a new-look roster to develop chemistry, pressure to compete multiplied tenfold.
Injuries derailed the Lakers’ season, and they’re now on the verge of missing the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year. A loss to the Denver Nuggets marked a fourth in a row and sixth in eight games since the All-Star break.
“The goals could change,” Walton acknowledged. “With our group, even when the season started, our goals were to get in the playoffs and make some noise, but we rely on so many young players (that) player development was still a big part of what we needed to do this season.
“Heading into next season, we needed growth from young players. Now, the amount and priority, that might change as we go down this final stretch of the season. But for now we’re trying to win.”
One of the forthcoming changes he alluded to appears to have been a decision to scale back James’ time on the court. Indications are he won’t play more than 32 minutes a game and will sit at least one contest in their three remaining back-to-back scenarios.
Moreover, Walton said he would give the likes of Alex Caruso, Moritz Wagner and Johnathan Williams more playing time if others aren’t providing the type of necessary effort.