Is Luke Walton The Answer?

Byron Scott is undergoing the kind of evaluation where no news is good news. One one side of the equation is unemployment. On the other side, is the last year of Scott’s deal, 2016-17. If management does indeed give Scott a stay of execution, he will be entrusted with another young college player, one he most likely will alienate, yank in and out of the lineup, and smother in toughness cliches as he imitates Pat Riley circa 1985.

Like most employees, Scott isn’t in control of his fate. He is dependent on young Lakers players development, none of which Scott has incentivized with his offense straight out of a 1975 playbook.  And yet here the Lakers are, on a modest two game winning streak and heading into San Antonio where the expectations are so low, a good showing, meaning playing hard, is the only presumption for Saturday night’s Texas game.

Whether the Lakers win in San Antonio or the Lakers lose in San Antonio, Byron Scott will still be their coach. He has 30 games left on this dreary season. Reports have suggested that the Lakers would be willing to hand over the keys to Warriors assistant and former interim coach, Luke Walton, if he was interested. That’s a big if.

Why would he be?

The Warriors are the odds on favorites to win the title this year, adding one more ring to Luke Walton’s collection. The uniqueness of the Warriors players is a headache for NBA teams who go up against them. Four out five starters are drivers, finishers, passers, 3-point shooters and ball movers. They dedicate themselves to defensive rotations. It makes them a hard team to stop. The ball goes in the hoop. Or, the ball moves and goes in the hoop. Either way, defending all four of them is a tough task for any team that has, at best, one good perimeter stopper, maybe two. The Warriors play a breathless pace, forcing teams to cover multiple players on all parts of the floor. If they win the title this year, they’d be odds on favorites to be the first team to three-peat since the Lakers crushed the Nets in 2002. A 15-year drought would be over.

Why would Walton want to leave that?

Ego. If he wanted to be a head coach, after getting a short taste of it while Steve Kerr was out, and if the Lakers organization meant something to him-they did draft Walton- and if he wants to show the Lakers he is grateful. Remember, Walton signed a $30 million dollar contract making him grossly overpaid for his production (4.9 points, 2.9 rebounds).

On the no way in hell is Walton taking this job side of the ledger, the Lakers is not a job where playoffs are in the near future. They don’t have an offensive talent like Steph Curry. They don’t have a versatile point-forward who can pass, score, rebound and protect the rim like Draymond Green. They don’t have a spot up shooter and defender like Klay Thompson.

Yet the fans continually expect that next year the Lakers will be a contender, just because their name recognition is synonymous with past excellence, emphasis on past. Rebuilding, in basketball terminology, is defined by building over time. Time. As in three years, four years, five years. Whoever ends up in the Lakers clutches after draft night, rest assured, this is a young team that isn’t going to attract quality veterans who want to win now. The Lakers aren’t built to win now.

Julius Randle has to work on his right hand. He has to perfect a jump shot. He has to learn a couple of post moves so he can finish in traffic. He needs a couple of sessions with Hakeem Olajuwon to develop footwork in the post to erase all those charging fouls.

D’Angelo Russell is pretty good offensively, he doesn’t need help on that end. But he has to get his body in shape, hit the weight room, and get the mental game down. He has to play hard every night and not care what everyone on Twitter is saying about him.

Kobe Bryant recently said about Russell:

“He has had a really tough stretch. I’ve been on him. Offensively, he can score and make plays.Having a defensive presence is the key. If you don’t get it for the first two or three years, you’ll struggle forever. Once you get it, it becomes a habit, you have it forever.”

Jordan Clarkson needs ball handling work and he can further perfect his floater. He is a better player today than he was this time last year, and I expect he will be better next year, than he is this year.

The plus side of having Luke Walton as the Lakers coach- besides the quick exit of Byron Scott- is that he would scrap that archaic whatever Byron Scott wants to call it offense. The Lou Williams five dribbles and shoot. The Jordan Clarkson dribble, drive and shoot. The Kobe Bryant launch behind the three point line and shoot. Walton would have more screen and roll action, pick and pop, cutting on the baseline, assists, ball zipping from side to side.

Walton is the anti-Byron. His personality, laid back and chill, may seem counterintuitive for a young team but in a lot of ways these young players are exactly who Walton can impact. They need nurturing and communication and their confidence raised. Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul did well under Scott because they were such mentally tough players, his dictatorship didn’t affect what they thought of themselves.

Russell’s confidence is dependent upon what happens in the game. Scott doesn’t help with all of his glaring and spitting out words through clenched teeth. Julius Randle needs an arm put around his shoulder every now and then.

Walton was the least athletic player on the court when he was a Laker but he was sound fundamentally. He understood the game. He could pass that on to Randle and Larry Nance Jr.

With Walton, the Lakers would do what they love. Keep it all in-house. Reward a former champion for his loyalty. Keep the organization in Lakers hands.

It’s not that Walton would get the Lakers in the playoffs next year. They will be the youngest team in the West. You don’t win 14 or 15 games and then 45. But Walton can spearhead this rebuilding project on the right track so the train isn’t running without a conductor and without brakes.

And the best part about Walton as the next Lakers coach is that his first season will be the last season of Jim Buss. Who said Lakers fans have nothing to celebrate?

photo via llananba