When the Los Angeles Lakers hired Luke Walton as head coach, they were coming off an abysmal 17-win season and third consecutive year of missing the NBA playoffs. That streak has stretched to five straight seasons, but improvement can’t be denied.
Aside from increasing their win total in each season with Walton at the helm, the Lakers as a whole are in much better standing that recent years. Sweeping changes in the front office helped foster that, but so too did a clear focus from Walton.
“My priority when I got here was I wanted to establish a certain kind of culture, and from there we’ll build out how we play, execution, Xs and Os, and all that,” he said after practice. “My top priority was setting up the culture we want.”
Under Walton’s guidance, the Lakers have developed a young core of players that factored heavily into the team luring LeBron James out West. So much so that James did not find it necessary to pressure the franchise into acquiring a second All-Star.
Walton has predicated the Lakers’ foundation on competition, defense and open communication with players. That approach has already resonated with Rajon Rondo, who’s entering his first season with the team.
“I mean this is definitely a players-first organization. I can’t say it’s not the best I’ve ever played for, you know as far as staff, they’re great. They’re very always welcoming when you come in the door, as they speak all the time, they’re polite, they ask if we can do anything for you,” he said.
Rondo’s remarks further validated Walton’s focus. “We put a lot of time and effort into it,” he said when informed of Rondo’s comments.
“The culture of a team, from my experience, is as important if not more important, than a lot of other things. We spend a lot of time with it. I agree that it’s a great culture here. We’re down here working with our guys, we believe in having those open relationships with the players, taking their opinions, letting them know we care.”
Want to get your content COMPLETELY AD FREE? Follow us on Apple News!