When Luke Walton became the Los Angeles Lakers head coach prior to the 2016-17 NBA season, he emphasized ball movement and playing for one another. The roster has changed, but Walton’s message has not.
For the second consecutive season, the Lakers are a top-10 team in assists through 18 games. However, in the 90-83 win over the Utah Jazz, they finished with only 10 assists.
As James was the only player with at least one assist (7) for most of the game, Lonzo Ball (2) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) eventually contributed. Some of it was a result of the Lakers struggling to shoot, but Walton also felt the team’s play was a factor.
“There were possessions we should’ve made extra passes, and we harp on that all the time. We’ll continue to harp on that,” Walton said following his team’s win.
“I talked about it in the post-game with the players. It’s something that we will get to as a team. When we get there, we’ll be a much better team. Even if we’re winning games, we’re not going to slack off on the coaching of making the right pass and the extra pass. I truly believe we’ll become that type of team.”
Coming off a three-game road trip and Thanksgiving Day, it was an ugly game as the Lakers also committed 23 turnovers. While the Lakers are one of the fastest-paced teams, the Jazz were able to slow down the game and forced them to operate in halfcourt situations.
While LeBron James can play at any pace, it was a learning experience for the young core. As Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball were aggressive and carried the Lakers, it also led to a lack of ball movement at different points of the game.
For the young core especially Ingram and Ball, the challenge will be finding a balance between scoring and facilitating.
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