The All-Star weekend, for some teams in the NBA, comes at a tipping point in the season. The clear-cut contenders and lottery situation begin to figure themselves out, while the remaining teams battle it out for playoff positioning. It is at this point that coaches and players reevaluate their situation, with a fresh state of mind going into the final third of the season.
Going into the All-Star break with a record of 19-39, the Los Angeles Lakers and head coach Luke Walton already understand their scenario rather well. Walton has fully implemented the youth movement, giving the young core some much-needed experience on the court, with the Lakers seven games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers have kept up with many of the best teams in the NBA, with some surprise victories to build off of. However, with an abundance of close contests come many heartbreaking losses, which can add up throughout the season. When a player makes a crucial mistake during a critical moment in the game, it isn’t hard to understand why they can often get mad at themselves.
After Tuesday’s close loss to the Sacramento Kings, forward Larry Nance Jr. went to Twitter to take the blame and apologize for the loss, stating that his defensive play needs to improve down the stretch. While a head coach would appreciate the honesty, Walton stated that Nance Jr. can sometimes be too hard on himself, via the Los Angeles Daily News:
“Larry’s very critical of himself, to a fault,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “He’s one of our best players, he’s out there always trying to make the right plays and the right reads. Sometimes he’s too hard on himself. You want guys to be hard on themselves because that motivates you to get better and to work harder. I like taking accountability, but it’s not his fault at all.”
At times, the losses can add up to frustration, especially when they occur in succession. The Lakers have found out the hard way this season that elite chemistry and late-game situations are what separate teams in the NBA.
Nance Jr., a steadily developing player, takes pride in his defense and all the little things that need to be done on the NBA court. This season, he has sparked the Lakers whether he is playing with the bench mob or with the starters in those very same late game scenarios.
The Ohio native has shown all the signs of a successful role player in his second season, as a key piece of the franchise moving forward. Not only has he become a fan favorite around the NBA for his athleticism, but he is also putting forth efficient production in his minutes played each and every game.
In 39 games played this season, the 24-year-old is averaging 6.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 22.3 points per game. While the All-Star festivities are set for this Valentine’s weekend, Nance Jr. stated that he isn’t bothered he is missing out on the dunk contest.