'Back to very beginning' in LA, Walton hopes to emulate Warriors' path

'Back to very beginning' in LA, Walton hopes to emulate Warriors' path

SAN DIEGO – The Warriors spent decades envying the Lakers. The procession of stars they had. The championships they customarily won. The Lakers were NBA royalty, and the Warriors upon sight always seemed to bow in subservience.

The Warriors could only dream of reaching such status, or of someday trading places.

Someday has arrived.

The days of Lakers dominance over their Northern California peasants are cold and dead, the burial performed by Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his staff.

Luke Walton was a part of Kerr’s staff that won six of the last eight games against Los Angeles and a two-season total of 140 victories. Walton scouted the Lakers. As interim head coach, he was 3-0 against them last season.

But Walton, essentially borrowed by the Warriors, is back home now. He is a Los Angeles Laker. Played most of his career in LA. Bought a home near the beach. And now he is the head coach, a job he was offered after excelling last season as an interim head coach and assistant under Kerr.

The second of what they hope will be many reunions between Walton’s Lakers and Kerr’s Warriors comes Wednesday night, when the teams meet for a preseason game at Valley View Casino Arena in San Diego. Walton would like to avoid embarrassment.

Walton’s new task is different, and so is the responsibility. He went from daily alliance with a roster coming off back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, including a title, to a group of youngsters trying to pull the Lakers out of the steepest free fall in franchise history. Not until last season had they ever experienced three consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance, much less three straight losing seasons.

The Lakers have become what the Warriors used to be, the Warriors what the Lakers once were.

Walton has yet to coach a regular-season game, but he has a vision. He knows precisely what he wants from his new team. He wants it to be like his old team. He wants the Lakers to emulate the Warriors.

“We won a championship up there, so you want to do a lot of the things in the same manner as they did,” Walton told CSNBayArea.com. “Guys loved coming to the gym up there. We had fun, but we worked hard. Guys weren’t just coming in to BS and showcase.”

Walton concedes he misses Kerr, misses Draymond Green and misses the many good times shared when he was a member of the Warriors. He might even miss the few tough times he endured with the team that during his two seasons as an assistant won 140 regular-season games and made consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, the first of which ended a 40-year championship drought.

Kerr encourages joy in the workplace, and Walton took to it like a flower to the sun. But the joy is accompanied by dedication to improvement and competitive zeal. There was about the Warriors a unique and lively spirit.

“We worked,” Walton said. “Draymond stayed after practice to shoot. Steph (Curry) stayed. But it was also an inviting environment. People weren’t like, ‘Arghhh, I gotta go to the gym today.’ It was ‘Let’s go in there and get after it. We won’t be in here all day, but we can get good work in.’

“That’s the idea behind what we’re trying to do in LA.”

Walton, 36, is taking over a team with some talent – best of it young and unrefined. Power forward Julius Randle is 21. Point guard D’Angelo Russell is 20. Small forward Brandon Ingram, taken second overall in the 2016 NBA draft, turned 19 last month. It’s an intriguing trio, but mere boys in the ways of the NBA.

“It’s a whole different challenge than it was last year,” Walton said, comparing his role with the Warriors and his new role. “We’re starting all fresh, all new, implementing the style we want to play and the defensive philosophies we want to have. So we’re going all the way back to the very beginning, the very basic fundamentals beyond how we want to play.”

Meanwhile, the Warriors, after adding four-time scoring champ Kevin Durant to a team with three All-Stars, are being hailed as a “super team.” They have a fabulous blend of experience and youth, and they’re expected to roll to a championship.

The Warriors have joined the NBA elite, and gotten comfortable in the palace once occupied by the Lakers, for whom oddsmakers have set an over/under of 24.5 wins.

The Lakers secured Walton with a five-year contract worth $25 million. He’ll be paid well to rejoin the franchise where he spent nine of his 11 seasons as a player. He’ll also have to enduring some misery. This coach and team can only dream.

“What I expect is that we play hard,” Walton said. “I expect is that we compete on defense. And I expect that we get out and run when the opportunity presents itself.

“Wins and losses, I’m not concerned with right now.”

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss


Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

OAKLAND -- If Quinn Cook plays at anything close to the level he performed Friday night against the Kings, the Warriors should avoid any catastrophic stumbling in the absence of their top three scorers.

They stumbled plenty in a 98-93 loss to Sacramento, but not because of Cook. The two-way player who has spent most of the season with G-League Santa Cruz scored a team-high 25 points, shot 10-of-13 from the field and played respectable defense.

He did more than could have been reasonably expected.

“I felt like this was coming,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was fantastic. He really lit it up and gave us a huge boost.”

The Warriors ran into problems elsewhere, shared among the usually reliable veterans who need to be particularly reliable in the absence of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Usual starters Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia combined to shoot 6-of-20.

Usual reserves Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and Nick Young shot a collective 13-of-39.

In the second half, when Warriors mustered only 34 points -- a season-low for any half -- the six vets combined to take 32 shots and missed 24.

Those are atrocious numbers and they explain what went wrong in a game that was there for the taking.

They’re also an anomaly.

“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Green said. “But we got some good shots. We got ‘Dre on a couple of pull-ups in the lane, I got a couple open shots, Nick got a couple open shots, Zaza got a couple open ones. D-West had one pop in and out. (Kevon Looney) had two pop in and out.

“We just got cold. But hopefully those shots will fall tomorrow.”

West, returning after missing four games with a cyst on his right arm, was 1-of-6 from the field. He came into this game as a 60.8-percent shooter this season.

Igoudala was 4-of-10; he shot 70 percent over the previous 10 games. Young was 5-of-15, well below his 44-percent shooting this season. Livingston’s 3-of-8 shooting is uncharacteristic of someone shooting at least 50 percent for four years running.

If history is any indication, Green (5-of-14) and Pachulia (1-of-6) are not going continue to miss at the rate they did in this game, the first this season in which the Warriors were without all three of their top scorers.

If history is any indication, the Warriors can’t be counted on to score 34 points on 27.3-percent shooting in the second half of a game.

“I loved how our guys battled,” Kerr said. “They really competed well and made some big plays. We just couldn’t get the ball to go down quite enough in the second half.”

That’s going to change, perhaps as soon as Saturday night in Phoenix, were the Suns are playing to lose.

So if Cook plays steady basketball, the Warriors will fall off and their fans won’t become a basket case while waiting for the three shooters. The Warriors surely believe that.

“He really showed up. I’ve been waiting on that Quinn,” Green said. “We needed that. It was great for him to come out and play like that. And most importantly, his shots were falling. Since he’s been playing (more often) he’s been playing well, but his shots weren’t really falling. But tonight, they fell for him.”

They won’t always fall at a rate of 77 percent. They won’t have to once his teammates drop in a few more of their own shots.

Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings


Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings

OAKLAND -- Omri Casspi sustained a sprained right ankle with 9:00 left in the second quarter of the Warriors-Kings game Friday night and did not return.

After dropping in a short hook shot with 9:04 left in the quarter, Casspi landed awkwardly, rolling his ankle and dropping to the floor clutching his lower leg. Down for a couple minutes, he eventually got up and limped into the locker room, accompanied by physical performance specialist Chelsea Lane.

Casspi played six minutes off the bench, producing 6 points, one assist and one rebound against his former team.

He joins Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Pat McCaw and Klay Thompson on the sideline.