The stage is set for the Los Angeles Lakers to officially begin their youthful trek to supremacy tonight against the Houston Rockets at STAPLES Center.
The Lakers, who will be without 20-year veteran Kobe Bryant for the first time since 1996, enter the season with optimal confidence despite a posted 2-6 preseason record that saw the team lose against tantalizing teams like the Portland Trail Blazers and the championship favorite Golden State Warriors.
Following a robust coaching pickup in now-former Warriors assistant Luke Walton, and acquisitions Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick in last June’s draft, the Lakers have managed to mold a formidable group of youngsters who appear poised to take on the league in spearheaded fashion, led by second-year guard D’Angelo Russell.
Russell, who posted impressive preseason numbers of 17.2 ppg, 4.3 apg, 4.7 rpg, and 1.5 stls at a 56.9%TS percentage, charted great improvement in every department of his game when compared to last year’s preseason.
Most would concede that this is largely attributed to the arrival of Walton and his guard friendly system that pulls some traits from the Golden State Warriors, a system which put players like Curry, Thompson and Iguodala in positions to attack with a plethora of three-point shooting, backdoor cuts and P&R play with Green.
Walton acknowledges the learning curve that the team will understandably have to go through to grasp the full idea of his system, and unlike his predecessor, is entirely committed to the development of his group.
Because of this, and the laid-back, cheerful attitude that he portrays himself in, the group trusts the movement, going as far as to publicly support their coach and the integration of a new, fresh culture for the team.
Considering the fallout that the team has gone through over the last couple of seasons, it’s a welcome change after having struck out on basically every coach the Lakers hired since Phil Jackson’s retirement from coaching.
It’s a story of sorts, to consider the magic behind a young Luke Walton grasping the lines of coaching under then-coach Phil Jackson back in 2009, when Walton was a tenured 9-year player with the Lakers.
Now, Walton can lead on the team he once played for. He stands ready with an armament of schemes and knowledge from a Zen Master from a different time. Add this to the modern understanding of the game from one of the league’s now most formidable match-ups in terms of skill-set and culture, and you have one helluva coach to lead your team into a new era of Laker Basketball.
Here’s to greener pastures, my friends.