The next head coach who at his inaugural press conference says “I think this team needs to play slower” will be the first. Universally they promise a more up-tempo game.
But there’s reason to believe Luke Walton when he says it.
The Lakers introduced their new coach on Tuesday, and as should have been expected from a guy who spent the past couple seasons on the Golden State bench, he wants to open the offense up.
“You have to make it fun for them. Basketball is supposed to be a game of joy…” Walton said. “The future is bright. We’re going to play an up-tempo game, we’re going to bring in another top pick, we have money to spend (in free agency).”
He also said that he can’t run exactly what Golden State ran because a coach has to adjust his system to his personnel.
All of that should be music to Lakers’ fans ears. Last season was more of a farewell tour for Kobe Bryant than time spent on focusing on the long-term direction of the club. Young players such as D'Angelo Russell showed promise but had their frustrations with the communication and style of now-ousted coach Byron Scott. Russell was front-and-center for Waltons’s press conference (along with Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown).
It’s time for the franchise to move forward, although Walton said he hoped some of Kobe rubbed off on the young Lakers.
“His work ethic,” Walton said. “He was the hardest working player I’ve ever played with.”
Walton has a great coaching resume — having played in college for Lute Olsen at Arizona, then for Phil Jackson with the Lakers (who brought him in as an assistant coach) — but listening to him Tuesday it was clear that Steve Kerr and what the Warriors have done had the biggest impact on his style.
Walton — who was drafted by the Lakers in 2003 and was part of the 2009 and 2010 Laker teams — called this “my dream job.”
“The fact that Mitch (Kupchak, Laker GM) and (co-owner) Jimmy Buss trusted me to be part of this rebuilding, post-Kobe era means the world to me,” Walton said.
Walton is the son of Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who you can expect to see around Staples Center.
“You’ll see him in the hallway wearing Lakers shirts that are too small for him,” Luke laughed.
Walton will be out with the young Lakers at Summer League in Las Vegas (although he didn’t say he would be coaching the team).
The Lakers got the guy they wanted. Luke Walton got the job he wanted. But both sides have a lot of work (and need to be a little patient) to get the franchise back where Lakers’ fans expect it to be.