And it would appear they're having a crap ton of fun at the same time. In fact, their enjoyment—just a season removed from living in a Byron Scott-hosted basketball hell—and their 2016-17 success are probably linked.
Just ask bench scorer Lou Williams.
Lou Williams said Luke Walton has a way of making the players feel like they’re his teammates, and want to “run through a wall for him.”
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 7, 2016
That camaraderie was on full display on Wednesday when Walton, a 36-year-old who played in the league for 10 years and won rings with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010, took to the practice floor to body up some of his squad's big men during post-up drills.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 9, 2016
First, he pesters reserve center Tarik Black into blowing a lefty layup. Up next, the grizzled veteran expertly draws a charge on Black's fellow Jayhawks big man, Thomas Robinson.
Lakers coach Luke Walton taking on Randle, Mozgov, Black and Robinson in practice today. None of them scored until Randle's second try. pic.twitter.com/baVyCXZuco
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) November 9, 2016
The second time around, however, he's no match for Julius Randle. But, to be fair, that's been the case for a lot of people so far this season.
Julius Randle on Luke Walton stepping in at the end of practice to guard the Lakers bigs in the paint: "The old man wanted some work."
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) November 9, 2016
We've seen something like this before—during Team USA practices a year ago, assistant coach Monty Williams worked Carmelo Anthony on defense.
At 6'6", Walton was more of a small forward back in his day. But considering current league trends and his ability to pass and shoot a little bit, he might have been a heavy-rotation stretch-4 in today's game. From the looks of things, he would have been able to handle the beating.
“I’ve been on teams where everyone’s involved, and I’ve been on teams where there’s division,” Walton told the Washington Post of his playing experience, and how it shaped his coaching style. “First hand, I know when you’re on a team and you feel part of it, and guys like each other and want to succeed together, it’s the greatest job in the world as a player.
“When it’s the other side, it’s still a great job, because you’re playing basketball. But it’s not the same, and you don’t get the same results.”