Written by: Kyle Dillard – Staff Writing Intern (@TheGrandstandKD)
“I love Basketball!” Metta World Peace belts, as he drains a Free Throw in the Bankers Life Field house against his previous Indianapolis Pacers squad. Coach Luke Walton and the rest of the Lakers team love it, embrace it, and it’s now the team motto. Some may say this is ridiculous, and Just a team of professionals plying around too much; however, this is exactly what Coach Walton wants.
Drafted 32nd overall in the 2003 NBA draft, Luke Walton, son of NBA Legend Bill Walton, was a solid 6’8 player out of the University of Arizona. He went on to play 10 NBA seasons, and win two NBA championships. A Laker fan-favorite, Luke was always beloved for his hard work, and little did he know, it would pay dividends in his future. His Playing career ended and he quickly transitioned into the coaching world. The Warriors had no idea they were about to make the best hire in franchise history.
When hired by the Warriors, he’d boast about his knowledge of the Triangle Offense, and was hellbent on bringing his fan favorite attitude, and love of basketball, to the Warriors. In his first season with the Golden State Warriors, the going was tough, as Marc Jackson was just fired and Steve Kerr was taking over. They posted a career year and Won an NBA Championship. Hopes were high to repeat in 2016, and this is where Luke Walton began to emerge as a leader and viable coach. Going into the season Coach Kerr was unable to coach due to health complications, and Luke was thrown the reigns to lead the NBA’s defending Champions.
Under Walton, the Warriors were thought to have possibly peaked, and there were many questions on if he could handle the pressure of making coaching decisions on the fly as well as being the go to guy for Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Well, perform he did. The Warriors finished the regular season a historic 73-9, and opened the season 24-0. Curry also emerged as an even better player, as did Green. Kerr returned in the latter portion of the season, and the warriors were dramatically defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals 4-3 at home.
Despite this loss, the media, and the rest of the world realized Luke Walton was the real deal, finishing 9th in Coach of The Year voting, and sitting podium side to Steve Kerr as an attribution to his true responsibility for the Warriors success. After the season, on April 29th, 2016, Luke Walton was hired by the Los Angeles Lakers, and this is where I began to realize the “Luke Walton Effect”
So far this season, the Lakers are 3-3, with the 5th ranked offense in the NBA. They have a new look, new energy, and are beating good teams, including a blowout victory over the Golden State Warriors. Luke Walton and his Lakers break every huddle with “I love Basketball.” The effect Walton has displayed in just six games on the Lakers is amazing. This is a team whose identity was just erased with the retirement of Kobe Bryant. What most thought would be a rebuilding year has turned into a year in which the Lakers could make the playoffs. This is all attributed to what I call the “Luke Walton Effect.”
He’s began to implant what he established in Golden State and he’s gotten a group of young talented guys to buy in and enjoy playing while giving their best. They play hard, they don’t make as many small mistakes, they play defense, and they aren’t afraid to score. Luke Walton is a catalyst for success that began with his role on the Lakers as a player. I truly believe he will breed excellence, and restore the Lakers franchise. He’s a coach that can attract players, a coach that can enjoy his team, and establish an angry dog team mentality. He’s the type of coach that gets everyone to row the boat, and if you don’t give 110% on his boat, well, you will be replaced. Look for The Luke Walton Effect to continue this season, and don’t be surprised when the Lakers challenge for the playoffs this season and for years to come.