A player yelling at his teammates when he notices things they’ve done wrong might not be a recipe for harmony within a team, but in coach Luke Walton’s estimation, it’s been working for the Lakers.
He’s lauded veteran guard Isaiah Thomas twice in the last week for doing just that with teammates.
“I think it works because we’re a team that believes in each other,” Walton said. “I think it works because they, it, the players know that we want that type of communication going back and forth. They know that Isaiah’s coming in here with experience — being through playoff series and being in the league as long as he has and able to teach a lot — and that it’s not … there’s no selfish intentions in what he’s saying to people.
“When you’re part of a team that believes in each other, then that type of communication I believe is very healthy. It hurts when you’ve got guys that are splintered and not in it for the same reason.”
Kyle Kuzma has been a common target of Thomas’ comments. Thomas and Julius Randle engaged in an expressive argument on Wednesday against the Warriors. After the game both players spoke positively about the interaction and declined to say what the disagreement was about.
Brandon Ingram did some on-court work with Lakers assistant Brian Keefe before Friday’s game. Ingram was then examined by the Lakers doctors and was cleared for non-contact, on-court basketball activities.
Ingram is now considered day to day and the Lakers said he was “progressing well.”
Ingram suffered a left groin strain on March 1 in Miami when Heat forward Justise Winslow collided with him after Ingram was fouled. Winslow’s knee hit Ingram in the groin area.
Ingram has been just one of the Lakers’ many injured players this season and those injuries have cut into the team’s regular flow of practice.
Walton canceled the typical morning shootaround Friday at the Lakers’ training facility. Instead, he held a pregame shootaround at Staples Center to give players more time to rest. This came a day after a day off on Thursday. While teams do not practice the day after back-to-back games, Walton has canceled many more practices this season than he did in his first year as the Lakers’ head coach.
It’s not a new philosophy, it’s just that he’s had a dearth of healthy bodies.
“Right now there’s just no option with the injuries that we have,” Walton said. “I like to play more guys and keep their minutes somewhat around at the most 35. Right now guys are up around 40, and with our schedule we’re playing every other night, with that back-to-back thrown in there. I know how important practice is for us but it’s just, we can’t do it right now.”
In addition to Ingram, the Lakers played without Josh Hart on Friday as he recovers from surgery on his left hand, and Channing Frye, who is recovering from an appendectomy. Kuzma (sprained ankle) and Brook Lopez (back tightness) both played but had concerns heading into the game.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli