It’s not breaking news that the Los Angeles Lakers’ season has been a frustrating one. A promising start to the year has been met with plenty of struggles as the young Lakers have battled inconsistency and injuries to their second-worst record in the league.
However, the Lakers have preached patience both from the front office and the coaching staff with the focus on building for the future at the expense of current wins and losses.
Bill Simmons’ latest podcast saw him sit down with head coach Luke Walton with the two talking about the struggles the young team has went through.
Bill Simmons: What’s been the most frustrating thing about, other than the fact you guys aren’t succeeding and you’re losing most of the time compared to last year when you were winning all the time, what’s been the most frustrating thing for you this season?
Luke Walton: “First, and I know success is different for everyone, but I think we are succeeding, honestly, with where we’re trying to get to. Again, I tell our guys, it sucks to lose, nobody wants to lose, but the important thing for us is how we’re building habits right now (and) the direction we’re trying to go to.”
BS: So what are those habits
LW: “The way we practice, honestly. The way that we play as far as far as are we playing unselfish, are we making the extra pass. Defensively, are we talking, are we challenging teams defensively. A lot of the time throughout the season, that goes up and down. Obviously being around the NBA for a while, being consistent in the NBA is not easy because of how many games you play….”
BS: …And you have young guys
LW: “And we have young guys. And not just one or two young guys. We’re playing a lot of young guys. But I think that the way it’s going right now, we’re actually having success in those terms, which is most important to me right now. I mean even if we made the playoffs and went on a 15-game win streak, got the eight seed, we’re playing the Warriors in the first round. So to me, more importantly right now is we’re building winning habits in the way that we practice and in the way our young guys are in the gym every morning before practice getting specific work in with specific coaches on what we think is most important for them, a weakness of their’s to get better at. And they’re doing it every day, and from there into the weight room. Building those types of habits at this young of an age I think carries over when you do it day after day after day then year after year. Now all of the sudden these players that were young with this raw talent start to blossom into phenomenal NBA basketball players.”
While the term “success” certainly isn’t one many Laker fans would associate with the team this season, but given the contest Walton used it in, it’s fair to consider this season a success.
The team was never going to be a playoff team or likely even a team near .500 for the season, so the future was priority number one.
In recent weeks, notably since Magic Johnson has taken over, the shift toward the focus has been a notable one. With the trades of Lou Williams, Marcelo Huertas and the buy-out of Jose Calderon paired with the signing of David Nwaba, the Lakers have shifted entirely to the future.
The shift in focus on the future has also brought with it a shift in the fanbases focus toward next season’s draft pick, which is top-three protected.
Later in the pod, Simmons asked Walton if he had noticed the fanbase shifting to wanting the team to lose.
BS: Is it weird to think about your fans at this point don’t want you to win? Because of that draft pick?
LW: “Yeah. But it doesn’t feel like that though because that Charlotte game, they were going nuts. They were into it. Our players were into it. It doesn’t feel like that in Staples Center. The people that are showing up are still rooting these young guys on.”
It’s clear that Walton, the coaching staff and the front office have their eyes firmly set on the future, which is nothing but encouraging for Laker fans.