When the Los Angeles Lakers concluded their 2015-16 campaign with a franchise-worst 17 wins, the decision was made that the team needed more than just some new faces; they needed a new culture. With Kobe Bryant lost to retirement, the opportunity was there to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. The Lakers parted ways with coach Byron Scott and hired Luke Walton, who would become the youngest head coach in the league.
Walton would be tasked with developing the young talent for the future, and with making the Lakers an attractive organization to play for once again. Since Walton had spent the previous two seasons as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, it has been assumed that the team would largely mimic Golden State, both in terms of on-court play and team environment.
There’s no one leader, no face of the Lakers,” Russell says, citing the Spurs as the template. “When we traveled to San Antonio last season, I noticed that it’s about everybody-they had all those household names, but the 15th guy got the same amount of attention as Tim Duncan, who’s a legend. I feel like we’re all buying into that concept. We’re a team now. And that’s exciting.”
Of course, Russell’s comments don’t mean that Golden State is not an influence on the Lakers because they most certainly are. The fact that Russell noticed how the Spurs operate, with no star mentalities despite having immensely talented players, is a positive thing.
The Lakers have an impressive collection of young talent, but they lack a true superstar at this point, and it will take a real team effort for them to win games this season. With that being the case, there are few better teams to follow than the Spurs. The Warriors may be a big influence, but it’s going to take successful elements from a variety of sources, including ones unique to Los Angeles, in order for the Lakers to right the ship.