EL SEGUNDO – Even after they labored through dozens of losses en route to another season that ended in April instead of June, Lakers players were quick to praise Coach Luke Walton after their exit interviews this week.
Both rookie forward Brandon Ingram and third-year guard Jordan Clarkson described Walton as a “players’ coach.” Forward Julius Randle called it “amazing” playing for Walton, and veteran center Timofey Mozgov appreciated Walton bringing “a lot of positive energy.”
Veteran swingman Nick Young labeled Walton “one of the best coaches for this new era of basketball,” and forward Thomas Robinson argued that “for this group of young players, it can be nobody better for them than Luke.”
That’s because so many of the Lakers, regardless of their NBA experience, believe the 37-year-old Walton fits a specific criteria.
“Luke’s great. He’s a great coach, man, and he’s young, too. He knows how to talk to the guys and knows his X’s and O’s,” veteran forward Corey Brewer said. “He is positive with them. I think they need that and that’s why they’re getting better.”
Brewer has played for 10 head coaches on six teams during a 10-year NBA career. His teammates’ words reflected their belief that Walton was instrumental in the team improving to 26-56 after finishing the 2015-16 season with a franchise-worst 17-65 record under former coach Byron Scott.
“Luke came in with a very loose environment,” Robinson said. “He’s a players’ coach. For a young group, there is nothing better than to be with somebody who was an ex-player that understands the game and knows one night you miss a couple of shots and you’re mad at yourself. You know how that feels.”
In his introductory press conference in early March, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka pointed to Walton’s league-wide popularity among players as evidence of his coaching acumen. The Lakers are also convinced they need to surround Walton with better…