On June 21, former assistant Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton returned to Los Angeles as the head coach of the Lakers.
The new head coach played for the Lakers for nine of the 11 years he was in the NBA. Walton plans on adopting the philosophies practiced by the Golden State Warriors to spearhead the young Lakers squad.
“We’re going to put our stamp on the culture that we want. It’s going to be joy. Our players are going to like coming into practice every day. We’re going to play a brand of basketball that the L.A. fans will appreciate,” Walton stated in his introductory press conference. “There’s gonna be an emphasis on the culture going forward, and that’s going to be up to us and the staff that we bring in to hold the guys accountable and make them want to be a part of that.”
Walton called basketball “a game of joy,” explaining the ways the Golden State coaching staff continued to make the game interesting for the players.
“We play music during warmups and we scrimmage and we cancelled practice to go have a bowling tournament in the middle of the winter in Minnesota one time,” Walton said.
Guard D’Angelo Russell mentioned he was a fan of Walton and had been in contact with him to ask questions. Russell showed interest in the system Walton was pitching.
“He was talking about how much fun we’re gonna have; days off from practice just resting,” Russell said. “That’s just something that builds that chemistry off the floor.”
As a player, Walton earned a total of 2649 career points, a fraction of guard Lou Williams’ 8604 career points after playing for 11 seasons. Walton also averaged 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, leading him to have 1588 total rebounds and 1317 total assists.
He made 182 three-point shots, a milestone Russell is close to passing. The 20-year-old already scored 130 three-pointers in his rookie season.
Along with Walton as the new head coach, the Lakers welcomed former Duke center Brandon Ingram and Croatian center Ivica Zubac on NBA Draft night.
Ingram finished a strong freshmen season by becoming a USBWA All-American and leading the ACC freshmen in several areas including double-doubles, three-point shots per game, and rebounds. He became the conference Rookie of the Year.
“He started in an excellent league with excellent competition. In that regard, there’s been a lot that’s already been proven,” said Lakers general manager, Mitch Kupchak. “We look at him and his age and his body type and his willingness to work and be coached.”
Zubak averaged 10.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in the Adriatic League. The 7-1 center was a member of the Croatia U19 national team, helping them win a silver medal in the FIBA World Championship in 2015.
“I don’t care which number I am,” Zubac said. “I just care about being on a good fit for me and a great team with an amazing, legendary franchise. I couldn’t be happier right now.”