Since taking over this summer as head coach of the Lakers, Luke Walton has been attempting to establish a player-friendly culture. But that doesn’t mean he’s just going to turn the young players loose from day one. In a new interview with the Los Angeles Daily News‘ Mark Medina, Walton outlined his philosophy and cautioned that, while no decisions have been made yet, it’s unlikely that No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram will start right away.
Despite praising rookie forward Brandon Ingram for his playmaking and versatility, Walton said “we’re not going to throw him into the starting lineup right away” out of concern how he handles a grueling 82-game schedule.
“You develop the young core by rewarding them when they play well,” Walton said. “If there’s 10 games left in the season and out of the playoffs and there’s some vets that played long minutes all season, maybe you play all your young guys to finish out the season. But when you’re going through the season, you’re not doing anyone any favors just by playing young guys so they can play if they’re not out there playing the right way.”
If this sounds similar to Byron Scott’s approach with D'Angelo Russell last season, it’s worth noting that it’s a lot harder to picture Walton throwing Ingram’s work ethic under the bus repeatedly in the media the way Scott did with Russell last season. Having signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov this summer, the Lakers are looking to break a three-year playoff drought, and starting a rookie is not the way to do that. But Ingram will get plenty of playing time.