When the Los Angeles Lakers hired Luke Walton in 2016, it marked a new era in franchise history. After suffering its worst season by record the previous year under former head coach Byron Scott, Walton came with optimism that the tide would soon change.
Walton, considered one the brightest minds in basketball, returned to the organization where he won two championships as a player over nine seasons. More impressively, despite being the youngest head coach in the NBA, he already had a championship under his belt as an assistant coach to Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors.
Now in his second season, the Lakers have slowly made progress under the guidance of Walton. Despite what their record indicates in a tough Western Conference, Los Angeles has seen growth from its young core of players while remaining more competitive late in games.
During an appearance on Spectrum SportsNet’s “Connected With…”, general manager Rob Pelinka mentioned Walton’s ability to interact with the team as one of his greatest strengths:
“I think one of Luke’s big, big strengths is his ability to interact with players. He played and won a championship with great players. He coached and won a championship with the guys up north. So I think his rapport with our players is one of the things that really stands out. There’s a level of trust, he can talk with them at their level, and that’s one of the qualities in him that’s really stood out to me.”
Since taking the helm of the Lakers, Walton has preached an unselfishness style of basketball that team has learned to adapt to. His communication skills are especially valuable to the Lakers, considering they’re one of the youngest teams in the league.
Walton’s coaching tenure in Los Angeles hasn’t always been smooth sailing, however. Earlier this month, he was the focal point of headlines when LaVar Ball publicly stated that Walton lost control of the team.
In the wake of those comments, a report later surfaced that the Lakers could potentially make a coaching change and hire former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale.
Pelinka then went on the record to reiterate the organization’s support for Walton. Other coaches from around the league also condemned Ball’s comments and offered Walton high praise, including Kerr, who mentored Walton during their time together with the Warriors.
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