EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers are plenty excited about Luke Walton, but the team's brass believes it will take the Golden State Warriors assistant time to adjust to his first NBA head coaching position, especially as the 36-year-old Walton is set to become the youngest coach in the league while also taking over a rebuilding team posted a franchise-worst 17-65 record last season.
As such, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday that Walton, whom the Lakers agreed to hire last week, will endure "some bumps in the road," but the team believes Walton "is a good bet going forward" and that "we think he's going to get better year-to-year."
Kupchak spoke at the team's practice facility after Walton signed his contact with the Lakers on Thursday night. According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Walton agreed to a five-year deal, with four years guaranteed, worth up to $6 million a year annually plus incentives.
Kupchak said Walton was the first of several candidates the Lakers were scheduled to interview, but after meeting with Walton last Thursday in Oakland, California, the Lakers canceled their other interviews and soon offered him the position.
An announcement was made the next day that Walton had accepted the job.
Walton won't join the Lakers until the Warriors' postseason run ends. The Warriors are chasing their second consecutive championship, and if they reach that point, Walton won't assume his new post until June.
There were multiple reasons why the Lakers moved so quickly to hire Walton, one of them being that they didn't want to risk losing the hottest free agent coach on the market to another team that might lure him away.
"With the openings in the NBA at the time, and the openings that we thought might come about, once we finished the interview we decided quickly that he was our first choice," Kupchak said. "Why wait? Just get it done. And that's what we did."
The illustrious Lakers have typically hired veteran coaches, so choosing Walton marks a change of pace.
"I think more than ever, I think the front office will be more involved with development of a young coach," Kupchak said. "As long as I can remember we've had veteran coaches here, I guess since Del Harris. Del Harris, Phil Jackson, Rudy Tomjanovic, Mike Brown, Mike D'Antoni, Byron Scott. So this is something new for us and I expect to be more involved day-to-day than we've ever been in terms of the front office and what takes place down in the locker room."
Kupchak listed several reasons for the Lakers to hire Walton, including his coaching inexperience, though Walton retired from playing in the NBA just three years ago and two years ago was a part-time assistant with the Lakers' D-League team, the D-Fenders.
"Believe it or not, the fact that he really doesn't have a lot of head coaching experience is a positive," Kupchak said. "We get to work with somebody who's learning on the fly. We've had experience with coaches like that in the past. In fact, I think Pat Riley was our last 36-year-old coach. [Riley] did pretty good. But we're happy to have Luke for a lot of different reasons."
Of course, the Lakers know Walton well given that they drafted him and that he played nearly nine seasons with the team, winning championships in 2009 and 2010.
But beyond that familiarity, Kupchak said Walton was impressive during a sit-down that lasted close to seven hours and included Lakers' part-owner and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss.
"We had a lot of questions," Kupchak said. "Obviously, what kind of offense? What kind of defense? How do you see our team playing? What do you think our players? What do we need? A lot of 'what-if' scenarios. He was well thought out. He we was prepared. [He] had an offensive and a defensive playbook, and he actually had another pamphlet that he handed out, with his picture on the front of it and his name underneath it. I looked at it and said, 'Really Luke?' And he said, 'Oh, this is something my agent made me do.' "
Kupchak said Walton intends to play an up-tempo, fast-paced style, much like the Warriors play. However, Kupchak quickly added, "We don't have the players that Golden State has right now and in this league it's a player-oriented league. You're only going to be as good as your players are.
And that falls on the basketball department to provide him better players going forward. He does like the players we have and he thinks they can play a similar style of basketball that's really prevalent in the NBA right now. It's exciting, it's fun to watch and there's a high skill level."
Walton and the Lakers still need to assemble a coaching staff, and Kupchak said they'd like to hire some of his lead assistants -- those who generally sit next to the head coach on the front of the bench -- "as soon as possible." Kupchak added that they would also consider hiring assistant coaches who have head-coaching experience to help the young Walton along.
Walton posted a 39-4 record as the interim Warriors coach earlier this season when he filled in for Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who was sidelined with health issues. That brief-but-successful stint impressed the Lakers.
"When you're in that seat as a head coach, everybody's looking at you," Kupchak said. "And that's a big difference between an assistant and a head coach. The good thing with Luke is that he did have 40 games or so experience as a head coach, he knows to manage the clock, timeouts, substitutions, draw plays. Although his body of work is limited to about a half a season. The fact that he actually already has done it is a big plus going forward in his coaching career. He knows what it takes and he knows the decisions and he's familiar with the decisions that have to be made during a game."
One of the best moves the Lakers can make to help Walton is by improving a roster that has some promising but ultimately unproven young players.
The Lakers have a 55.8 percent chance at keeping their top-three protected pick at next week's NBA Draft Lottery in New York City, and they're projected to have as much as $60 million in salary cap room to use in free agency this summer.
"There's a timeline between now and July 15th that we're excited about that's going to be challenging," Kupchak said. "We do like our core of young players. There could be a veteran or two or three weren't on our team this year that we will pursue. We think we have something to work with versus a year ago [when] we had less. And certainly, financially we have so much more this year than we did a year ago, but a lot of teams, because of the cap going up, are going to have flexibility. So it will be very competitive and challenging, but we do have to provide better players going forward."
Walton replaces former Lakers coach Byron Scott, who has recently stated that he was surprised the team parted ways with him last week.
Scott, who won 38 games in two seasons caching the Lakers, said he believed that he had at least one more season to turn around the rebuilding team.
"It didn't go wrong with Byron and there's no one thing that we can point to," Kupchak said. "And the expression, 'It's a decision to go in another direction' is overused. But I decline to go into great detail.
"Byron did a wonderful job under very adverse circumstances the last two years. I know he wasn't expecting not to coach our team next year and I know he was hoping that he would coach. But that's the business, and when I spoke to Byron we kind of both looked at each other and said we've both been around long enough to know that this happens."
Scott had at times a contentious relationship with the Lakers' young players last season. While Kupchak said he wasn't yet sure what all the team's players think of Walton, he said he believes they will like Walton.
"I think his generation is closer to the generation of players today," Kupchak said. "So maybe it's a good thing that he can relate, certainly better than I could. And he'll be traveling and in the locker room, on the court, so I think that's a plus. It's not that long ago that he was playing and that's not to say that you have to be a young person who just quit playing basketball to be a head coach in this league or be successful in this league. That's not the case at all. In fact, one of the most successful coaches in this league is older than I am. But I think that will be a plus in this case. And I'm hopeful that Luke can turn it into a tool that not only helps him coach the players on the team but also helps us recruit players."
The last three Lakers coaches have departed before their contracts expired. Does the team take more of a long view with Walton given his age and inexperience?
"It's different today," Kupchak said. "For 20 years, we had a player on this team and on this court and on my white board and on every box score that we've become dependent upon and very familiar with. Of course, I'm talking about Kobe Bryant
The Los Angeles Lakers announced their 2016-17 preseason schedule Friday, and fans in the Southern California area won’t have to travel far to see their team play, unlike last fall, when the Lakers opened preseason play in Hawaii.
This year, the Lakers will play all eight of their preseason games in Southern California or Las Vegas. Specifically, they’ll play two games in Anaheim, two in Los Angeles, two in Las Vegas and one each in San Diego and Ontario, Calif.
The Lakers will open preseason against the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 4 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The Lakers will also face the Golden State Warriors twice, once in Las Vegas and once in San Diego.
The Lakers will close out preseason against the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 21 in Anaheim.
Information about tickets to preseason games is available on the Lakers’ website.
The Lakers played two preseason games in Hawaii last year as that was where they held training camp. This fall, the Lakers will hold training camp in El Segundo, Calif., where their training facility is located.
The Lakers finished 17-65 last season, the worst record in franchise history.
The Los Angeles Lakers might win the lottery, or lose their draft pick entirely.
If they win the lottery -- or get the second or third pick, as the the pick is top-three protected -- there is discussion already about whether they would keep the pick or trade it.
The Los Angeles Lakers will not have a center under contract once the 2016-17 salary cap year begins on July 1, so they will look at several free agent targets once we get to that point. According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, a source claims the Lakers have "interest" in Golden State Warriors restricted free agent Festus Ezeli.
This could be a good fit with Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton taking over the Lakers' head coach job once Golden State's season is over. Ezeli has shown a lot of potential over his four years in the NBA and he could increase that production if he stayed healthy. Ezeli has dealt with knee issues during his time in the NBA and this season he could only play in 46 games. Out of 328 regular season games over the last four years, Ezeili has played in 170 of them.
According to Deveney, an offer sheet that will likely be too high for the Warriors to match is about $50 million over three years.
“Obviously there are health issues you’re worried about,” one general manager said. "So I don’t think you’d want to go beyond three years. But he still has a lot of upside and he can get better in a bigger role."
Ezeli averaged 16.7 minutes, 7.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks this season.
Byron Scott wished he played his veteran players more minutes: The past week gave Byron Scott plenty of time to reflect over losing a dream job he will forever cherish. He believed he would bring the Lakers back to championship glory after experiencing that three times wearing a purple and gold uniform. But as he wore a suit on the sidelines, Scott oversaw the Lakers finish the past two seasons with the worst record in franchise history in consecutive years. -- Los Angeles Daily News
Kobe Bryant to partner with Sports Illustrated on animated film: For a player who devoted countless hours on the hardwood, it did not take long for Kobe Bryant to find his other calling. After sharing during his 20th and final NBA season that he loves storytelling, Bryant made a significant leap toward tackling that craft. Bryant’s production company, “Kobe Studios,” partnered with Sports Illustrated Group & Believe Entertainment Group to produce various multi-platform video projects. -- Los Angeles Daily News
Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott said he was "surprised" and "shocked" that he was fired from his position last week, adding that he believed management would give him at least one more season to try to turn around the rebuilding team.
Discussing Lakers' brass Wednesday on ESPN's The Jump with Rachel Nichols, Scott said, "When you have conversations with guys, you take them for their word. And that's what I did. Our conversation a couple of years ago was, 'This is a rebuilding process. It's going to take two to three years. It's going to be very tough. Are you OK with that?' And as I stated, I said, 'Yeah I'm OK with it. Are you guys OK with it? If you can deal with it, I can deal with it.'"
The Lakers parted ways with Scott after the team posted their two worst seasons ever under him, winning just 38 games in that span and posting a franchise-worst 17-65 record this past season, the second-worst record in the NBA.
Scott's deal with the team included a team option for next season that was not picked up. Earlier this week on the "Dan Patrick Show," Scott said the Lakers' decision "blindsided" him, which Scott explained further Wednesday.
"And so when I said I was 'blindsided' by it, I figured I at least had another year to get this thing turned around, and I was preparing for that and looking forward to next year," Scott said on ESPN's The Jump. "And then boom, that happened, and I said, 'Wow.'
"That kind of surprised me, shocked me a little bit, and then went home, thought about it for a few hours, woke up Monday morning, and said, 'Hey, I'm going to go to the gym to get a workout in and start thinking about life after coaching.'"
When Scott, who won three championships with the Lakers as a player in the 1980s, was informed of the Lakers' decision, he said he didn't immediately ask why he wasn't given another year.