After a franchise-worst 17-win season in 2015-2016, the Los Angeles Lakers decided that a change was needed, and they decided not to bring back head coach Byron Scott for a third season. The search for a replacement was short, with the team quickly coming to terms with former-Laker Luke Walton.
Walton had spent the past two seasons with the Golden State Warriors, acting as Steve Kerr’s top assistant. When Kerr missed the first 43 games of the season while recovering from back surgery, it was Walton who took the reins, ultimately gaining the experience that would legitimize his candidacy for a head coaching gig in the NBA.
According to Kerr, his protege has a way of relating to the players on his team, which includes a little trash talk every now and then (via Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News):
“He’s got the right combination of competitiveness and humor. He loves to talk [trash] to the players. They love it when he does. They talk [trash] back to them. There’s this whole give and take that is really fun, but healthy…We’re going to miss him greatly.”
It’s Walton’s ability to connect with young players that helped make him such an attractive candidate for the Lakers, who feature a plethora of talented but inexperienced players. D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson have already expressed excitement over playing for their new coach.
The Lakers also hope that Walton’s Warriors-inspired offense will lead to a more attractive style of basketball for the team. After growing weary of Scott’s isolation-heavy, old-school system, the hope is that Walton’s approach will allow the young players to flourish. In particular, it’s believed that Russell will benefit from the change, with Walton allowing him the freedom to get out and run and play off of screens in the half court.