NBA: Coach Walton aims to get Lakers back on song

The iconic California franchise looked to have hit rock bottom in the 2014-2015 campaign when the Lakers plunged to a 21-61 record in the Western Conference.

Coach Luke Walton LA Lakers

"Patience will definitely be important, not only for me, but for the rest of the staff, the players, the fans, everybody," said newly appointed Lakers coach Luke Walton.   -  AP

After two catastrophic seasons that were the worst in the club's history, Luke Walton is under no illusions about the size of the task facing him as he attempts to resurrect the Los Angeles Lakers.

The iconic California franchise looked to have hit rock bottom in the 2014-2015 campaign when the Lakers plunged to a 21-61 record in the Western Conference.

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But that low point turned out to be merely a staging post en route to a fresh nadir when the team crashed to a worst-ever 17-65 season in 2015-2016.

With Kobe Bryant heading off into retirement, and coach Byron Scott swiftly fired in April, the Lakers turned to Walton to begin the rebuilding process of the 16-time NBA champions.

A popular former Lakers forward — Walton spent nine seasons at the club between 2003 and 2012 — the 36-year-old returns to Los Angeles having worked as an assistant to Steve Kerr at the Golden State Warriors from 2014.

That stint in the Bay Area included a spell at the start of last season when he was effectively standing in for Kerr as the Warriors head coach recovered from back surgery.

Walton's spell in charge saw him oversee a record 24-0 start to the season, although under NBA rules the winning run was credited to Kerr.

Unsurprisingly, Walton envisages a long road back for the Lakers as the team journeys back from the lowest point in the franchise's history.

"Patience will definitely be important, not only for me, but for the rest of the staff, the players, the fans, everybody," he said.

"It's important that we set our foundation, and that we set our goals and that we don't let whether we are winning or losing games take us from that path. We've got to stay the course, and keep looking at the big picture."

Dancing to different tune

The Lakers will look to a blend of youth and experience as it attempts to revive its fortunes in the post-Bryant era.

Veterans such as Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov are among the additions to a roster that has a nucleus of young talent, including D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram, the 19-year-old chosen second overall in last June's NBA Draft.

Walton is hoping to instill the sort of winning habits used by the Warriors during their march to a record-breaking 73-9 mark last season.

One of those habits involves playing music during practice — something Walton was quick to introduce after he arrived at the Lakers.

"Growing up I always loved playing basketball with music on. When I got to Golden State it was something that Steve Kerr had implemented up there," Walton said.

"You could see a little bounce in their step when we had music going. I enjoyed it as a player and it's something that worked with the team, so it was something I wanted to bring down here too."

Walton's career has encompassed spells under the guidance of some of the sport's coaching giants, from a period under the legendary Lute Olson at the University of Arizona, to Phil Jackson during the Lakers's dominant decade in the 2000s through to his most recent role alongside Kerr. He has also drawn heavily on his father Bill Walton, a former Most Valuable Player during 13 years in the NBA.

Walton says he has drawn elements from each as he embarks on the biggest challenge of his career.

"There's a little bit of all of them in me for sure. I'm a stickler for fundamentals, and that started with coach Olson. The joy and the relationship I plan on having with my players, a lot of that comes from Steve (Kerr), and my overall view of how the game should be played, a lot of that comes from Phil," said Walton.

"Now, how much of each is what I think makes me my own coach. But there's definitely influence from all of them in the way I approach this job," he said.

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