The Los Angeles Lakers inconsistency this season has troubled rookie head coach Luke Walton. Coming off of an impressive win against a playoff contender in the Indiana Pacers, his unit rebounded for their worst loss in franchise history, in a 122-73 road loss against the Dallas Mavericks.
With a rebuilding roster, Walton and the organization understand that the young core is gaining experience and learning from their mistakes, all while trying to evolve their game to the next level. However, that has set the stage for troubling moments throughout the season.
In the NBA, many players and all-time greats always refer to how the veterans on their team paved the way for their outlook and hard work. Those that have been in the NBA can help relay little tidbits of information a rookie or young player should hear and invest in.
Alas, the Lakers haven’t had much veteran leadership in recent seasons. Even when Kobe Bryant still resided on the roster, the development of the young core always took a backseat. The young core is now left in a position where they have to battle on their own, attempting to learn as they go.
According to Mark Medina of the O.C. Register, Walton stated that the Lakers have lacked one natural leader all season and that multiple players have to consistently step up and walk the walk moving forward:
“We don’t have a guy who’s naturally that person for us, so it needs to come from multiple people,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Saying the right things is a good starting place. But to get it done is more about the action of doing, not what people are saying.”
With the positives during the initial stretch of the season, those around the Lakers assumed D’Angelo Russell would step up and take the leadership role. Walton backed up that sentiment by giving consistent confidence and duties for Russell to delegate, but his production hasn’t stepped up as expected.
During their win over the Pacers, Russell suffered a mild MCL sprain and bone bruise, which has him sidelined for the next few weeks.
Lakers’ legend Magic Johnson recently called on Russell to emerge as a leader, but his injury has confined him to a watching role.
Upon a strong stretch of play, basketball aficionados deemed Randle as a potential leader, as the success of the Lakers was dependent upon his play. Alas, Randle hasn’t shown many qualities of a young leader either, although his play may be the only All-Star caliber talent on the roster.
No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram has perhaps shown the most growth this season under Walton, demonstrating he is capable of thriving in the NBA. However, the 19-year-old and his silent demeanor don’t exude a leader mentality either.
Without the definitive leader Walton was talking about, it sets up a situation where the Lakers need to thrive with each other, rather than individually. The Lakers lack a clear-cut leader and don’t have much of a veteran presence (outside of Metta World Peace & Jose Calderon).
The Lakers are truly left in a situation where the players must continue to grow with each other, demonstrating that they can consistently do what needs to be done, rather than talking about what needs to happen.