The Los Angeles Lakers went into the 2017-18 NBA season hoping to show the rest of the NBA (and prospective free agents) that they were a talented, fun, hungry and competitive team that had as bright of a future as any in the league.
The Lakers are 5-1 since the All-Star break, with Monday’s loss snapping a season-best five-game winning streak. Their 17 wins since Jan. 7 trail only the Houston Rockets (22) for most in the NBA.
“It’s a big step in the process of what we’re doing. It starts with work habits and the type of basketball we’re playing,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said of his team’s improved play.
“Once you start doing that, you still have to learn how to win games and get the confidence and belief in yourself that we are going to win games. As that happens you can see guys growing individually and as a team.”
The Lakers’ recent hot stretch has coincided with a relatively drama-free stretch for the team, with trade rumors a thing of the past and LaVar Ball out of the spotlight and staying away from tabloid headlines.
However, Walton said that the team was trying not to “notice” off the court distractions anyway, so he wasn’t necessarily willing to credit the lack of external distractions as one reason for the strong stretch.
“We try to use everything as an opportunity to learn and grow from. The message to our guys is, it’s our group and we have to have each other’s backs. No matter what else is happening out there,” Walton explained.
“When we lose, they’re not going to feel sorry for us. When we win, they’re going to be giving you all sorts of love in the media but that doesn’t make you better. For us, it’s important to have the experience of knowing that no matter what’s going on outside, that we show up for each other and work the same way either way.”