There has been plenty of reasons for fans of the Los Angeles Lakers to be excited since Kobe Bryant’s farewell performance in the 2015-16 regular season finale.
After a long period of angst regarding whether or not the team would keep their top-three protected first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum revealed that the Lakers would have the No. 2 overall selection for the second consecutive year. The pick gives them an opportunity to draft either Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram, the two prized prospects of this year’s draft class.
As exciting as landing the second pick was, perhaps the only thing that could match it this offseason was the Lakers replacing Byron Scott with Luke Walton as head coach. Los Angeles was able to land one of the top candidates on the market, finally adapting to the modernized NBA playing style.
Walton is still with the Golden State Warriors, who are now just five wins away from successfully defending their 2015 NBA championship after a thrilling Game 6 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday to force a Game 7.
The Warriors’ postseason run has a maximum of eight games left, meaning Walton’s head coaching career with the Lakers is imminent. With the official start of his tenure with the Lakers looming, has it been difficult for Walton to stay focused on the Warriors and their quest for back-to-back titles? Not at all, he told the New York Post’s Marc Berman.
“It’s been easy,’’ Walton told The Post on Saturday before the Warriors fought off elimination in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Thunder with a 108-101 victory. “We’re trying to win a championship here. It’s a special opportunity. I’m absolutely focused. Priority No. 1 is the Warriors trying to win a championship.’’
While fans are certainly excited for Walton to officially get started with the Lakers, it should come as no surprise that he is dedicated to the remainder of his time with the Warriors.
The Lakers hired Brian Shaw as lead assistant coach, and he will fill in while the team starts conducting NBA draft workouts as they survey their options at picks No. 2 and No. 32 until Walton is able to come back to Los Angeles.
At the end of the day, the Lakers should be thrilled that they will soon have a coach that can block out distraction and exhibit a razor sharp focus. A new era for the Lakers is underway, and optimism continues to build as Walton’s new career draws closer.