The goal for the Los Angeles Lakers right now is to lose as many games a possible in order to have a better chance at securing their top-three pick for the upcoming NBA draft. This puts head coach Luke Walton in a great position to focus on the development of his young core without having the pressure to win games.
This is exactly what the 36-year-old rookie head coach has been doing and in a recent interview, it is now the team’s leadership, or lack thereof, that he has put in the limelight.
“We don’t have that one alpha yet, or that one All-Star type of guy to really calm us down, when adversity hits,” declared Walton in an interview transcribed by Serena Winters for Lakers Nation. “We have guys that want to win and care but when things start going bad for us…we still don’t have that one player to step up and kind of calm us down and get us on track.”
Walton is clearly sending a message to his players with this statement. The Lakers have recently shut down veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov for the rest of the season so he is looking for other guys to step up in terms of establishing a floor general.
As Walton has implied, young guys like D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram have all shown their hunger and desire to win throughout the season. However, their inexperience and lack of maturity have been evident especially when the team is faced with adversity.
The upside here is that right now, the coach can afford to take a wait-and-see approach. Short-term success is no longer a priority for the franchise and failure is actually something that Walton can use towards their advantage.
“It’s my job to try to encourage them, to challenge them, to put them in positions to fail, so they can learn from it, and realize that it’s not the end of the world, and eventually grow from it,” added Walton. “I truly believe that even if it hurts us in a game right now, by letting guys figure it out on their own, they’ll get to that place much sooner.”
The Lakers have a very promising roster and the addition of another talented prospect in the 2017 draft will take it a notch higher. However, as Walton so adamantly put it, someone will need to step up and take the leadership role in order for the franchise to move forward and become relevant again.