Luke Walton

Community Shootaround: Lakers Future

The Lonzo Ball Era has officially arrived in Los Angeles – well, Las Vegas technically – and the potential impact the No. 2 overall pick will have on the franchise can already be felt world-wide.

Sure the Lakers lost to the Clippers (in what Lavar Ball calls his son’s ‘worst game ever‘) but the rookie’s vision was on full display right from the onset of the first quarter.

Just over ten seconds into his NBA debut, Ball connected with Lakers 2016 first-round pick Brandon Ingram for a casual alley-oop.

Already the prospect of seeing Ball and the new-look Showtime squad has pushed the organization into new territory (or at least familiar territory that they haven’t seen in some time).

After years of Post-Prime-Kobe and consistent asset collection, the team has brought in a new executive staff, committed to a highly regarded young coach and laid out a framework for a roster that could remain in Los Angeles for years.

The result?

History. Sort of. As Ohm Youngmisuk detailed for ESPN – and we broke down here – the Las Vegas Summer League sold out their venue for Saturday’s entire session and had done so by noon today. That’s a first, Youngmisuk reports, reminding readers that the Thomas & Mack Center’s venue seats over 15,000 people.

The question, of course, is whether the franchise will live up to the hype or not. While there are several legitimate reasons to be genuinely optimistic about the future of the franchise, there was no shortage of hype this time last year either, when the team presented Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and then-new head coach Luke Walton as the pillars of the team’s future. Ball, then, hadn’t even yet suited up for a single Bruins game at that point.

We ask you, Lakers fans and haters alike, will this go down as the beginning of the next great Showtime dynasty? Are we finally seeing the core building blocks of the organization’s next great run? Or, for the pessimistic among us, will we simply be having an entirely different conversation this time next year?

LaVar Ball Will Not Be Allowed At Lonzo Ball’s Workout

UCLA product Lonzo Ball is scheduled to workout for the Lakers tomorrow but his outspoken father, LaVar Ball, will not be present for it, head coach Luke Walton confirmed on the Jim Rome Show Tuesday.

The elder Ball, however, was offered an invitation to a pre-workout dinner — Walton was not sure LaVar would attend, but joked that his presence would provide a boost in entertainment.

“Absolutely. If he wanted to come to the dinner,” Walton said (via USA Today). “I think the workout is something that we’ll keep the doors closed on, but the dinner, I think he would definitely make the dinner more entertaining. He’s definitely welcome to join us for that one.”

Ball, 19, is expected to be a top draft pick this season and the Lakers own the second overall selection. As a solid player at UCLA and California native, Ball is viewed in many circles as a surefire Lakers pick. However, a report last week claimed the Lakers are not sold on the young point guard.

While Ball has mulled over working out for the Sixers, his father has previously stated that his son would only work out for Los Angeles — fueling speculation he would be the team’s first-round selection. After his workout on Wednesday, Ball’s possible future in Lakers purple and gold should be clearer.

On the topic of Ball’s father and his opinionated, outspoken nature, Walton noted that he would not have a problem managing the boisterous personality if the team selects Ball.

“No, I wouldn’t. We’re in the NBA, to me, that’s not an issue,” Walton said. “Parents are always gonna have their opinions. They’re gonna be outspoken at times. As you know, Jim, I have a very outspoken father myself. It doesn’t bother me. If we were to draft him, we’re gonna coach him. He’s gonna be part of our team. He’s gonna be part of our family. And we’ll go from there. This is the NBA. We’ll keep the team where it needs to be. We’ll not let outside things like that influence us on whether or not we pick the kid.”

Lakers Notes: Draft Pick, Walton, Ingram, Robinson

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka says the organization has a plan in place whether it gets to keep its first-round pick or not, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. The Lakers will learn their fate at the May 16th lottery, where they need the pick to fall within the top three to prevent it from being sent to Philadelphia. At 26-56, L.A. had the third-worst record in the league, which gives the franchise a 47% chance of keeping the selection. “If we get the lottery balls to bounce our way, yes, we have a great attack plan for the draft,” Pelinka said. “But if we don’t, just like [many famous] sports moments, we have to find a way, and we do have a plan, to still get to where our ultimate destination is without the draft pick.”

There’s more Lakers news out of Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers would like to add talent this summer without disrupting the young group of players they have in place, writes Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. Now that the season is over, coach Luke Walton plans to join Pelinka and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson to develop a strategy for the future. “They both believe in the young core we have. They believe with time we’ll be able to get it done,” Walton said, “But at the same time, they’ll be looking for different ways to make the team more successful sooner rather than later. It’s kind of a fine line in balancing all of that.”
  • Pelinka and Johnson have told rookie Brandon Ingram to work out with Kobe Bryant this summer, Medina relays in a separate piece. They also want the 6’9″, 190-pounder to add muscle over the offseason, but the organization believes Ingram could benefit most from being exposed to Bryant’s mental approach. “He had a curiosity for the game,” said Pelinka, who was Bryant’s former agent. “I think for a young player like Brandon to tap into the highest level of obsession with excellence and learn what that means is critical.”
  • Another summer of uncertainty awaits free agent Thomas Robinson, but he was happy with what he heard during Thursday’s exit interview, Medina notes in another story. Robinson averaged 5.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per night in 48 games after earning a roster spot in training camp. “They were impressed with the way I handled myself this year,” Robinson said of the meeting with Pelinka, Johnson and Walton. “They’re happy with that part with who I am as a person and as a player. I take that as a good thing. Hopefully it turns into me coming back as a Laker.” He added that there was no commitment from the team about bringing him back next season. The No. 5 pick in the 2012 draft, Robinson has been with six organizations during his five NBA seasons.

Pacific Notes: Walton, Buss, Crawford

When Luke Walton shifted from his role as an assistant coach with the Warriors to head coach of the Lakers, an adjustment period was expected. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes recently profiled the transition that Walton has undergone in California, adjusting not only to a new routine and staff but an entirely new culture.

Really, it shifts your entire life because your daily routine is so much different from the stress and the grind and the everything,” Walton told him as the Lakers look back on a 20-49 record, “I do my best to stay in the right frame of mind.”

Walton adds that there have been plenty of sleepless nights but remains optimistic about the young Lakers roster and about coaching in general.

The job itself is still the same,” he says now amid the ongoing Lakers rebuild. “It’s rewarding. It’s exciting. Now we’re competing for different things there and here, but the competition level is right there from the daily practices to the games.”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • In an effort to open up communication across all levels of the organization Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and new general manager Rob Pelinka have been meeting with players at practice. “It’s good for us being able to talk to them and pick their brains as well and having that open-door presence,” Jordan Clarkson told Mark Media of the Los Angeles Daily News.
  • Current franchise president Jeanie Buss has asked her brothers for permanent assurances that they’ll vote for her to remain the controlling owner of the Lakers, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, as well as to remain on the board of directors.
  • Veteran guard Jamal Crawford recently spoke with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype about the trade rumors that popped up with his name in them prior to the trade deadline. “It was a little bit frustrating. You hate to hear it, and this time was a little bit different since I had just re-signed [with the Clippers on a three-year contract] this past summer. […] For me, I’m just glad it’s over with and we’re just moving forward.
  • The Warriors were left with a lack of depth after signing Kevin Durant in the offseason and Marcus Thompson II of the Mercury News speculates that Omri Casspi, Mario Chalmers and Jimmer Fredette could be options to help bolster the roster as the playoffs near. That, of course, begs the question of who the team would need to cut if they made an addition.

Lakers Notes: Walton, Old Trades, Draft Picks

There are a few areas that the Lakers will need to address as Rob Pelinka tackles his new role as general manager of the franchise, but head coach isn’t one of them. In fact, the presence of Luke Walton on the payroll could be an asset for the organization, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Everyone loves you,” Pelinka said to the Lakers coach at the press conference when his hiring was formally announced. “You have this genuine honesty and coolness about you that just makes every player in the league want you to be their coach.

Walton spoke about his new boss’ support at practice, mentioning the benefits of knowing that the front office supports him. “It gives you the confidence to make the decisions you feel are best for the team,” Walton said.

There’s more from the Lakers:

  • When Jeanie Buss opted to hand the keys to the Lakers over to Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka rather than her own brother Jim Buss and long-time general manager Mitch Kupchak, it showed that loyalty matters more than family, Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report writes.
  • Though reluctant to commit to a timeline, newly hired general manager Rob Pelinka insisted that the Lakers need to be aggressive in their rebuild and “get better talent for Luke Walton to coach,” Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote in a separate piece.
  • In a column published Friday, Mark Heisler of the Orange Country Register wonders if the Lakers forgot to tank. Heisler reminds readers that if the Lakers pick falls out of the top three this year, they lose it (on account of the Steve Nash trade) — otherwise they lose next year’s pick. Should they lose this year’s pick and retain next year’s pick, they would lose their 2019 first-round pick due to the Dwight Howard trade and the Ted Stepien rule. Check out the column for more details.

Lakers Notes: Pelinka, West, Kobe, Walton

New Lakers GM Rob Pelinka vows to be aggressive in his attempts to get the franchise back on the winning path, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News relays. “We have to get better talent for [Luke Walton] to coach. We have to develop our young players. Our timeline is to be aggressive and to grow with quality players,” Pelinka said. “All of these things are like a chess game. You’ve got to start moving pieces around the board before you can win the game.”

The former agent wouldn’t commit to a timeline regarding a turnaround, adding that “it’s impossible to predict.” He said the front office will put in the necessary hard work and it will be “committed to excellence every day.” Team president Magic Johnson didn’t commit to a timeline either, but he also took accountability for the team’s future.

“If we can’t do our job, then I’m going to hand the keys back to Jeanie and step aside,” Johnson said. “If I see I can’t do it, I’ll gladly step aside.”

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Jerry West was interested in returning to the Lakers, but he didn’t match owner Jeanie Buss“vision for the future,” sources tell Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. West’s son, Ryan, currently works for the Lakers and is expected to remain with the team.
  • Ding adds (same piece) that while Kobe Bryant remains “loyal” to Pelinka, though the future Hall of Famer is sticking to his plan of pursuing business ventures rather than chasing a front office role.
  • Despite the down season, both Pelinka and Johnson support Walton as the team’s coach, Medina adds in the aforementioned piece. Johnson recently referred to Walton as “the right man for the job.”
  • Pelinka believes in the Lakers‘ young talent, though he admits to being unsure about the team’s title chances with its existing core, Medina passes along in that same piece. “I don’t know,” Pelinka said in response to a question about the team’s ability to win a title with its core players. “But I do know this. We have a championship coach and Earvin and I are going to put in a championship accountability system to make sure any player that has the honor to put that jersey on is striving for greatness, is working hard and is a person of integrity.”

Lakers Notes: Johnson, Russell, D’Antoni

There are plenty of benefits to having an individual of Magic Johnson‘s stature calling the shots for the Lakers, writes Sam Amick of USA Today but there is no consensus on whether or not that will be enough to push the franchise back to its former heights.

If you have a free agent sitdown with a superstar, and Magic Johnson is in the room, that’s going to move the needle as far as getting that guy serious about wanting to come here,” says former player Dell Curry of the Lakers icon. “[…] He built his way up, built his brand once he got here. Being in LA, having Magic and all the doors he can open for you off the floor, that’s even more incentive for superstars to want to come here.

Unlike other players who’ve returned to manage the teams that they played with, Johnson has a high profile in both the basketball and business world. Only Michael Jordan rivals Johnson’s total package but he faces the tougher task of drawing players to small market North Carolina whereas the city of Los Angeles is practically a selling feature in itself.

Still, Johnson’s contributions will eventually be measured in the amount of star players he’s able to recruit to the Lakers, Amick writes. If he airballs as the recent front office has with players like Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant, he’ll be little more than yet another former player learning on the job.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • A recent uptick in D’Angelo Russell‘s production can be traced back to improved work habits coming out of the All-Star Break, writes Mark Medina of the Orange County Register. “Sometimes when you get away for a week, especially when you’re young, you come back rejuvenated a little bit and a little more fresh than when you’re in the dog days leading up to All-Star,” says head coach Luke Walton.
  • It’s hard for anybody to resist the temptations of college basketball this time of year and for Lakers head coach Luke Walton, that’s no different. Don’t think that Walton is already setting his sights ahead on the draft, however, as Mark Medina for the Los Angeles Daily News writes. “We have a whole scouting department that has been watching them all year,” Walton explained. “We got European scouts. When the time comes, we’ll take the appropriate amount of time to sit down and actually watch it from more of a scout’s view.”
  • The fact that the Lakers haven’t gone out of their way to credit former general Mitch Kupchak for his contributions during his three decades with the organization is petty, says Anthony Irwin of SB Nation’s Silver Screen and Roll. The scribe explores Mike D’Antoni‘s recent comments that Kupchak and Jim Buss (also recently dismissed) “were not the problem” during his time in Los Angeles.

Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson Talk Lakers, CBA, Walton

New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson addressed fans at the Staples Center on Monday night at the 13th annual Lakers All-Access event, along with co-owner and president Jeanie Buss. As Baxter Holmes and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com detail, Johnson and Buss addressed a handful of topics, including the team’s recent front office changes, the impact of the Collective Bargaining Agreement on the team, and the Lakers’ pre-trade-deadline discussions with Larry Bird and the Pacers.

ESPN’s round-up includes a number of comments that we won’t pass along here, so be sure to check out Holmes’ and Shelburne’s transcript for more from Johnson and Buss. Here are a few of the highlights from the event:

Buss on why she didn’t shake up the Lakers’ front office sooner:

“It was probably the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make. Certainly, I am a person who wants continuity, and change is difficult for anybody, but I agonized over it, thought about it and I think that’s what took so long to make the decision, is that it was so difficult. And I apologize to Lakers fans for taking that time. But it was something that had to be made in a very thoughtful way. ‘Well’, some people would say — ‘the timing is unusual because it was a couple days before the trade deadline.’ My thought was that, there really is no offseason in the NBA anymore, that you are constantly trying to plan for what’s coming up. So you have the trade deadline then you have the draft lottery, then you have the draft, then you have summer league — it’s always something. So there really is never a right time to make a change like that. But once I knew in my heart that it was the right decision, then there was really no time like the present.”

Buss on the league’s new CBA:

“There’s 30 teams in the NBA, and I really truly believe that the current CBA and the way the league is set up is that any team at any time can win a championship, and that’s what you really want as a commissioner. You want everybody to have that opportunity. But I think even with an even playing field, there’s something about playing for Lakers fans, Laker nation — no CBA can make that equal. We have the greatest fans and they can’t take those away from us with the CBA. As long as they continue to do that, I think the Lakers will have an edge and pulling from all our strengths and all our assets, which includes former players, like Magic Johnson, like Kobe Bryant — those are our strengths.”

Johnson on engaging in trade talks with longtime rival – and Pacers GM – Larry Bird:

“We only talked for about two or three minutes about the possibility of a trade, but it was more geared toward later on, not at that moment. It was just saying ‘Hi, I’m here and we’re looking forward to talking to you later on this summer.'”

Johnson on working with Lakers head coach Luke Walton:

“It’s been easy. It’s been really easy. This man is the coach of the Lakers. I’m not the coach. He’s the coach. I sit back. I just watch the game, I watch practice. His job is to coach. I may come to him and say, ‘So and so may need to work on this.’ Like I’ve done a couple times. But that’s up to him after that … But I would never interfere with him and the players that he’s coaching.”

Lakers Notes: Magic, Jim Buss, Walton, Draft

Magic Johnson will have the freedom to do whatever he wants in his new role as an advisor to the Lakers, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. A news release issued by the team listed Johnson’s duties as “advising ownership on all business and basketball matters,” and Bontemps believes he will have a significant role in crafting the team’s future. That could include an ouster of executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, whom Johnson has frequently criticized in the past. Johnson offered an olive branch to Buss on Thursday, saying, “Jim is calling the shots, and I want him to understand, I’m just here to lend advice,” but Bontemps says no one in the organization believes that.

There’s more news from Los Angeles:

  • Johnson’s hiring signals a major shakeup and the likely end of Jim Buss’ time with the team, according to Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. Plaschke predicts the Lakers will become more attractive to free agents as Johnson brings in someone new to run the organization. The writer also expects Luke Walton to be kept as head coach and Mitch Kupchak to be replaced as general manager, but remain with the team as an advisor.
  • Walton hopes to build the Lakers in the image of a team that was once their greatest rival, relays Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. Growing up, the first-year head coach was greatly influenced by the 1985/86 champion Celtics that his father Bill was part of. “Everything that I’ve seen of basketball I thought should be played the way that Celtics team played,” Luke Walton said. “That was the standard of how basketball should be played — fast-paced, free-flowing, passing, high-scoring type of basketball. It was beautiful and historic.”
  • The Lakers shouldn’t hesitate to take an elite point guard in this year’s draft even though they already have D’Angelo Russell, according to Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com [Insider account]. Ford sees either Washington’s Markelle Fultz or UCLA’s Lonzo Ball as an upgrade, while Pelton notes Russell’s ability as a shooter and suggests that he could be moved to the two guard position.

Pacific Notes: Casspi, Paul, Griffin, Nance

The Kings will be without forward Omri Casspi for up to two weeks, writes Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee. Casspi injured his calf on Monday and underwent an MRI later that night.

Said to have strained the plantaris tendon in his right calf, Casspi will look to get back to action as soon as possible in an effort to reclaim his spot in the team’s rotation. Casspi has seen his role fluctuate over the course of the season and has appeared in just six of the Kings’ last 15 games.

In 22 games for the Kings this year, Casspi has averaged 5.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per.

Elsewhere in the Pacific Division:

  • Another injury has hit the Clippers, this time point guard Chris Paul. After leaving Monday’s game with a thumb injury, Paul underwent a basic X-Ray which came back negative. The guard was scheduled to have an MRI performed on Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury. “That’s the one injury we get,” head coach Doc Rivers told Rowan Kavner of the Clippers’ official site. “You know the pain. I’m sure CP was thinking the worst at the time. He’s already got pretty good news with the normal X-ray being negative. You’ve just got to hope for the best.”
  • Fortunately for the Clippers, good news continues to trickle in about Blake Griffin. “He looks like he’s explosive again,” Rivers told “He looks like he’s explosive again.” Per Woike, Griffin is expected to travel with the team on a three-game road trip starting on Saturday.
  • It seemed as though Larry Nance Jr. was nearing his return to the court for the Lakers, but head coach Luke Walton isn’t so sure. “It doesn’t look like he’s going to be back at least this week,” Walton told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Later adding: “If he can do two straight practices without pain, he’ll be good to play.”
  • The Warriors broke ground on their new arena today and team owner Joe Lacob spoke about the organization’s decision to fund the project themselves via increased ticket sales, increased sponsorship and other new revenue streams. “I don’t want to criticize other owners or other teams, in our league or anywhere else. But there is a history of these leagues getting these things publicly financed,” Lacob told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. “[…] I know that wasn’t going to happen here, just because it’s the Bay Area. I decided, ‘We’re just going to do it and we’re going to figure out a way to pay for it.’
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