The 2016-17 NBA season marks a new era in Los Angeles Lakers basketball. Not only has Kobe Bryant walked away from the game after 20 seasons in purple and gold, but the team has changed gears and mentality with a young and progressive new head coach in Luke Walton.
The Lakers have gone from an old school and outdated style of coaching in Byron Scott to a former player only a few years removed from his days on the court. Walton brings a different mindset and culture which as been very successful with the Golden State Warriors to a young team filled with promise and talent.
Walton’s new approach to a team that won a franchise-worst 17 games last season has already started to get noticed around the league and by his former team. Following the first matchup against Walton since his departure from the Golden State Warriors, Curry talked about the culture change in Los Angeles with unnamed Lakers already giving him high praise, via ESPN’s Baxter Holmes:
“I’ve talked to most of the guys over there,” said Warriors guard Stephen Curry. “They all love him and his approach to coaching their team. That says a lot about who he is and how he’s going to try to change their culture.”
Sharpshooter Klay Thompson also talked about the direction the Lakers franchise is headed in with Walton at the helm, via Holmes:
“They’ll be a lot better this year,” Thompson said. “A lot of those guys are young. They’ve got another year under their belt, and that’s huge. I think [Walton is] smart, and he knows that it’s not going to be built overnight, and he understands that it takes time to be great. He’ll lose sleep over losses, because he’s competitive, but he won’t be killed if they don’t have great success early on, because he knows it takes time, especially with such a young team like that.”
The Warriors may have made easy work of the young Lakers in Saturday’s preseason game in Las Vegas, but it’s clear Curry, and Thompson know the impact Walton can make in Los Angeles long-term. Although the results have yet to be shown on the basketball floor, the first-year head coach has his players using the right mindset while also being comfortable to approach their leader on the sidelines.
Only time will tell if the Walton experience ultimately works out in Los Angeles. Walton has a long way to go before he’s dubbed the savior of the Lakers or another coach eventually sent packing, but as of right now, he’s giving this team reason for optimism.