In Luke Walton’s first year as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, things have progressively gone from bad to worse on the court. His team has continued their freefall down the standings dropping four in a row and 12 of their last 14 games played.
As the season has worn on, Walton has come to make many realizations about what’s needed in order to turn around the franchise from what seems like an endless abyss of struggles. With that in mind, Luke Walton recently made a jarring revelation about the Lakers’ current roster, according to Lakers Nation.
“We don’t have that one alpha yet, or that one All-Star type of guy to really calm us down, when adversity hits,” Walton explained. “We have guys that want to win and care but when things start going bad for us…we still don’t have that one player to step up and kind of calm us down and get us on track.”
The lack of a dominant figure in the locker room has in many ways prevented the team from developing a true identity on the court. Yes, the Lakers have become a much more proficient scoring team in their first season under Luke Walton, but beyond that, there remains much of a mystery as to who will step up in that primary leadership role from their young core group.
Much of this responsibility has been subsequently placed on second-year guard D’Angelo Russell to fulfill for the Lakers. It was quickly thrust upon the 2015 second overall pick to help fill the massive leadership void that was left vacant by the departure of the future first-ballot Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, who held down that title for most of his illustrious 20-year NBA career.
Although Russell has shown progress in his play following the All-Star break averaging 16.9 points on 42.o percent shooting from the field with 4.9 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 steals in the first 10 games, he hit another personal roadblock that saw him being sent to the bench earlier this week. This was a clear test from the coaching staff and management to see how their young guard responds to the challenge.
At the same time, the Lakers’ other young players such as Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have yet to show they can step up in that regard at this point in their brief careers. Rookie Brandon Ingram can be lumped into that conversation as well, but it’s still far way too early to get a true assessment of his leadership ability.
However, Luke Walton’s comments shouldn’t draw a significant amount of concern at this point in time for the simple fact that the Lakers are heavily relying on their youth to lead the charge early their respective careers. This also clearly far short of the recipe for success in the NBA where a mix of established veterans and young rising talent have shown to be the key to helping turn around a franchise.
These are ultimately qualities that can be developed over time with more gained experienced on the court. On top of that, the Lakers also do not possess much in the way of that coming from key contributors on the team beyond Nick Young and Corey Brewer with both Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov being shut down for the remainder of the season.
There are many different ways that this situation can all unfold. With new management in place for the Lakers with Magic Johnson taking over as the president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, it’s already clear that they are all hands on deck in assessing the future outlook of the current core group of players. Keep in mind, Johnson and Pelinka didn’t play a single hand in stringing together this roster, and won’t hesitate to make major moves if they believe it’s in the Lakers’ best interest.
Ultimately, what Luke Walton’s comments should bring to attention is that some necessary changes are needed from their youth, or there could be much different looking Lakers’ team next season.
[Featured Image by Gerald Herbert/AP Images]