While Luke Walton’s pedigree includes being part of the Golden State Warriors’ incredible success during the past two seasons, he doesn’t like for those memories to crowd his coaching.
When he addresses this Lakers team, he doesn’t tell many stories about the Warriors.
“I don’t like doing that,” Walton said Wednesday after the Lakers practiced in Santa Barbara. “This is our team. This is who we are.”
There are times when a nod to the Warriors can prove useful, however.
Walton was an assistant on Coach Steve Kerr’s staff as they won the NBA championship in his first year and won a record 73 regular-season games before falling in the NBA Finals last season.
That coaching staff entered a situation vastly different from what Walton’s staff faces with the Lakers.
“We inherited a really good [Warriors] team that had a lot of veteran players, had already been to the playoffs and they were on the path up,” Walton said. “Our first year of training camp we had completely different goals than what we have right now as a staff and a team.”
With his mostly young Lakers group, Walton wants each player to take ownership of the team. He wants them to bond with each other, which is part of the goal of a road training camp, and he wants to create a “brotherhood type of environment.”
There is some carryover from his previous job. The musical accompaniment for practices is a tradition Walton brought south from the Bay Area. He’ll also use specific players as examples when doing one-on-one work with various Lakers.
“But when we’re doing stuff as a team, I don’t like to use examples from other teams. I like to keep it in house and talk about our guys and what we can do.”
When the Lakers signed Yi Jianlian this summer, the move followed two years of individually working out the Chinese forward/center and tracking him.
“In China, his relationship with the sports world in terms of his status and financially was such that we were not in a position to really recruit him,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said.
Circumstances changed this summer. The NBA salary cap rose from $70 million last season to $94.1 million this season. The Lakers have committed $94.032 million against this year’s salary cap, including $18 million for Luol Deng, $16 million for Timofey Mozgov and $12.5 million for Jordan Clarkson.
Yi, who had been out of the NBA for four years, was signed at the veteran minimum of $1.139 million. His contract includes incentives that could make it worth $8 million.
“We know he has NBA size and athleticism,” Kupchak said. “Certainly he can hold his own physically. He’s got a great skill. He has the ability to shoot the basketball. Very, very athletic. But he’s been away for four years. … From our point of view, we have 28 days to evaluate him as an NBA player.”
Lakers guard Jose Calderon turned 35 on Wednesday, and received a tribute from the team’s rookies.
“The rooks sang a little bit,” Calderon said. “It wasn’t great at all, actually. But they’re getting better. It was the first day they were doing something, so hopefully they’re getting better.
Calderon is the oldest player on the Lakers roster and is a year and a half younger than his head coach.
“It’s nice to [be] 28,” Calderon quipped. “It’s good.”