Make no mistake about it, the Los Angeles Lakers are a work in progress. With a solid core of inexperienced talent led by the youngest coach in the league in Luke Walton, it’s going to take some time before the end goal can be realized.
With that in mind, Walton has been using the preseason to experiment with different lineups. Most notably, he moved Jordan Clarkson, who started 79 games last season at guard, to the bench to work as the team’s sixth man. Walton also used an injury to starting small forward Luol Deng as an opportunity to audition veteran forwards Metta World Peace and Nick Young, with Young, in particular, showing well.
Still, Walton admitted to Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times that things may not come together quickly:
“We have so much work to do, honestly, we’re going to take it as it comes. I know the goal is to be ready, ready by Game 1 of the NBA season, but we’re looking big picture. We’re going to keep going at whatever pace we need to go at […] we’ll go out and I expect us to still compete our tails off on both ends of the floor and play to win. It’ll be with a simpler playbook on offense, a simpler playbook on defense and we’ll kind of just take it as it comes.”
Walton’s comfort with not having a starting lineup or rotation set prior to opening night doesn’t indicate a lack of effort on his part. Instead, Walton is merely taking the appropriate amount of time before allowing players to settle into a role. Better to get it right the first time and avoid the struggle to overhaul everything midseason if things don’t work out.
Additionally, with the number of young players that Walton is coaching, he has to give them time to work through their nerves before he can get a feel for what they can provide. The Lakers are playing the long game here, with no false hope of a playoffs berth. Instead, finding the best way to develop the team’s young talent is the goal. With that in mind, Walton’s patience is a virtue, and hopefully, it will pay dividends down the road.