Luke Walton opened his third training camp as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, but for the first time with a roster that included a superstar and with it lofty expectations. Development of the young core has not been abandoned, but rather accelerated.
Although the Lakers have welcomed veterans LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, among several other new players, the first day of training camp nonetheless was predicated on the fundamentals. “It was about defense. It was a physical practice but we challenged them mentally, too,” Walton said.
“As far as being locked in and really kind of helping set the tone for the foundation of the team we want to be. I said it at Media Day, one of the things about having a new team is you kind of start over again.
“So all those drills that we did at the beginning of last year, we’re doing them again now. It was a good day, it was solid. Had a lot of great effort, a lot of good communication.”
Walton’s messaging and emphasis on defense has been consistent since being named head coach of the Lakers. Tuesday’s morning practice session saw assistance and players taking charge to teach one another.
“What I loved about it the most was the vets were constantly grabbing the young players and kind of coaching them through drills as they’d make mistakes,” Walton explained. “It was good to see that.”
Walton was particularly impressed by Rondo and his desire to not only compete but win several of the drills. “He was great today,” gushed Walton about the veteran point guard.
Rondo returned similar praise, deeming the team’s first official practice as one that “went well.”
James, who said he did not address the team before they took the court, added: “Luke and the coaching staff had a great first practice.”
Rondo attempted to convince Walton to allow for them to scrimmage, which he admitted was difficult to hold off on for the time being.
The Lakers were due back at UCLA Health Training Center for a second practice Tuesday evening, which Walton said would entail plenty of running but no contact.