Luke Walton pushes the Lakers in a competitive practice after another loss

Lakers Coach Luke Walton talks to point guard D'Angelo Russell (1) during the first half of a game against the Knicks on Feb. 6.

Lakers Coach Luke Walton talks to point guard D’Angelo Russell (1) during the first half of a game against the Knicks on Feb. 6.

(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

Do you think the Lakers trust each other as a team?

Larry Nance Jr. took a full second before he answered the question.

“I don’t,” Nance said. “I don’t think we do.”

Then he gave the thought another second and amended it.

“I think we do sometimes,” Nance said. “We trusted each other in New York [in a 121-107 win over the Knicks]. The ball was moving freely, there was open spacing. You knew if you gave it up, you’d get it back. We knew, ‘If I close out, my man beats me, the next guy’s gonna rotate defensively.’ Some games, we don’t do that. Last game we didn’t do it.”

The Lakers (18-37) are a team learning to trust each other, and their growing pains are showing on the court. As they worked to leave behind the stench of their 121-102 loss Wednesday to the Detroit Pistons, Lakers Coach Luke Walton exhausted his team in a rigorous practice Thursday at the Bradley Center, where they’ll play the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Then, he offered a bet.

They could choose a grueling drill of sprints to end practice. Or they could choose one of their own and let the coaches pick another player to shoot free throws. If both made their shots, there would be no more running.

The weary group, working through Day 9 of a 10-day trip, argued about which path to take. Thomas Robinson crossly urged the players not to bicker as they sometimes did during frustrating losses. Nance and Jose Calderon spoke up, too.


“We’re taking the bet,” Metta World Peace said, in the middle of it. “We trust each other.”

Walton hung back and let his players sort it out themselves.

Guard Lou Williams was selected and he missed his free throw, so the players had to run sprints and then took turns shooting free throws.

“That was just good ol’ competitive, tired, fatigued trash talking,” Walton said after practice.

It’s the kind of situation he wants them to learn from, and the kind in which he placed them intentionally.

“You try to get them in challenging situations, and ones that they need to focus, and also ones when they mess up they need to count on their teammates, and also ones when they mess up they need to step their game up to lift the team up,” Walton said. “That’s the reason we do that at the end of practice when guys are most tired.”

They might pay during Friday’s game for how much running they did on Thursday. But Walton is comfortable with that, especially if it helps the Lakers learn “how to fight through fatigue.” After all, this has hurt them late in games. It corrodes their trust in each other, especially when an opponent goes on a run or starts to build a big lead.

Often after such games, Walton laments a selfishness setting in with the way the ball moves.

After practice Thursday, Nance referenced a dual accountability. The end of practice forced players to be accountable to their teammates, he said, but also accountable for trusting their teammates. It might help, and so might what came before it.

“I thought we got a lot of mental conditioning more so than anything,” Nance said of Thursday’s practice. “It was a tough practice, competed hard, got some running in. I definitely think we needed it. Hopefully that will reset our mind-set and we can go into this game like we’re 0-0.”



When: 5 p.m. PST., Friday.

Where: Bradley Center.

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 18-37, Bucks 22-29.

Record vs. Bucks (2015-16): 1-1.

Update: In Giannis Antetokounpo, the Lakers will face a versatile threat who routinely makes spectacular plays look easy. “Really everything,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said when asked what stands out to him about Antetokounpo. “How easily he gets the ball to the basket is insane, whether it’s a quick defensive breakdown in the half-court or it’s coast to coast, it’s impressive to watch.”

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli