Heading into the 2018-19 NBA season, head coach Luke Walton and the Los Angeles Lakers had playoff expectations that were instantly created when LeBron James signed in free agency.
Unfortunately, 66 games into Year 1 with James and the young core, the Lakers are seven games back of the San Antonio Spurs for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
Along with significant injuries to their best players, the team’s effort has been questioned with losses to the Orlando Magic (twice), Memphis Grizzlies (twice), New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Pelicans, and Phoenix Suns.
As the Lakers had hoped to use 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend to reset from the Davis trade rumors and make a playoff push (only three games back of the L.A. Clippers at the time), Walton was asked if there was anything they could have done better.
“I think coming out of All-Star, coming off that big win against Houston, I really thought the sense of urgency and the sharpness in our play would have carried over into that next road trip. But it didn’t,” Walton said following the team’s 120-107 loss to the Boston Celtics.
“I think for a young, new group together, that’s something you learn from. You don’t waste opportunities in this league. There’s no way to know Brandon is going to be out the rest of the year and Kuzma is going to be in and out of the lineup from that point on.”
And for the third-year head coach, the message to his players is simple in the final 16 games of the season and beyond. “We have to take care of business every time a game comes,” Walton said.
“That’s why we talk about whether it’s practice, this game, or that. The main thing is we’re locked in on what we’re trying to do for that night or that day in practice That’s a lesson we hopefully learn by going through this.”