Luke Walton patiently ticked through the list of things he wants his team to accomplish over the 82 games to come. Establish an identity. Bring it defensively every night. Get out and run. “Obviously we want to win,” Walton said. “Everybody wants to win. But to me, when you focus on the little things like that and creating who you are, the winning will take care of itself when it’s time for that to happen.” To hear the second-year Lakers coach tell it, 2017-18 represents one more step on the incremental march of progress. But those little things also correspond directly with the ambitions Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka set into motion early in their tenure, one that could have the Lakers back in contention as early as next year. “All I want us to do,” Johnson said, “is have a good season where free agents look and say, ‘Oh man, I can see myself in that lineup and with that team.’ And we can step up to another level.” LeBron James will be watching. Paul George, too. Walton needs to sell his system not only to the current Lakers, but future ones as well. Walton believes the Lakers’ top free agent targets will be judging the Lakers on the same things he does every day, the same things he stressed through a preseason in which they finished 2-4. “A lot of ball movement, a fast game. What else do free agents want?” Walton said. “They want to see if a team can compete, which is what I want to see, too.” Other than that, the coach isn’t sure what else he can do to help lure free agents. Starting with Thursday’s season opener against the Clippers, the Lakers will try to play the way Walton wants them to play. Johnson must trust that when next summer comes, that was enough. Walton won’t change the system to mimic what works for George in Oklahoma City, or put in an elbow set to appeal to James. He will focus on getting Brandon Ingram to play defense and everyone else to play at Lonzo Ball’s pace; on finding the most unique ways to use Brook Lopez and sorting out the logjam at power forward.
Lakers hope ‘little things’ will land them big stars next summer
Orange County Register | Oct 19