When the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Jordan Farmar back in 2006 with their 26th pick in the draft, Luke Walton who was heading into his fourth season with the Lakers took the rookie under his wing. From kicking it on the road to living down the street from each other in Manhattan beach, their friendship continued to grow as the two went on to win back-to-back championships, alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
At the 16th annual Harold and Carole Pump foundation gala over the weekend, Farmar talked about what the players could expect with Walton as head coach, who he referred to as “one of my best friends in the world.”
“If you don’t know Luke it’s hard to explain, just him, his personality, the way he’s going to interact with the team,” Farmar told LakersNation.com about why he thinks Walton is the right man to turn the organization around. “He really has a high basketball IQ and understands the game. He’ll make it fun, enjoyable, easy and he’ll be on their team. It’s not going to be like a dictatorship with Luke, he’s going to lead with positive energy.”
The Lakers are coming off back-to-back seasons of the worst in franchise history, racking up just 38 wins combined over the past two seasons under former head coach Byron Scott. With Kobe Bryant off the books and a fresh, young core, the Lakers were looking to go in a new direction and Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss had his eye on bringing Walton back to man the purple and gold. And, certainly a big reason, was Walton’s perceived ability to relate to and get through to their developing talent.
“He’s going to try to make you the best version of yourself,” Farmar said about Walton. “He’s going to give you a lot of confidence, a lot of leeway, and when things don’t go well he’ll support you. That’s the kind of person he is on and off the floor.”
That freedom Farmar alluded to has become a common thread when talking to players that know Walton. Kyrie Irving, who played alongside Walton in Cleveland, told LakersNation.com in July that he expects D’Angelo Russell to flourish because Walton will give him that flexibility to develop. Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told ESPN.com in an emotional interview that he can’t replace Walton, telling Ethan Strauss, “What he brings to the players is pretty powerful.”
Last year, Kobe Bryant half-jokingly said he always teased Walton that he’d be the next Phil Jackson, “an average player with a messed up back.” This week, Bryant told Time Warner Cable SportsNet’s Mike Bresnahan that Walton will create a “championship foundation” and have the players play the “right way,” rather than “isolation ball.”
But, how long until the Lakers start reaping the benefits of their young core and get back to a championship-contending organization?
“I think it will take a little while,” Farmar guessed. “I think guys just got to be patient, enjoy the ride, enjoy the growth process of all these guys. They’re really talented, they work extremely hard and they have a lot of upside.”