'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.”

Kevon Looney: Warriors training camp profile


Kevon Looney: Warriors training camp profile

The Bulls did it twice, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen leading the way. The Lakers accomplished it once, behind Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. In the 42 seasons since the NBA-ABA merger, those are the only franchises to win three consecutive NBA Finals.

When the Warriors come together for training camp on Sept. 25, their goal is to become the third.

Here is a look at those players with guaranteed roster spots.


Player: Kevon Looney
Position: Center/forward
Height/weight: 6-9, 220
College: UCLA
Age: 22
Salary: $1.57M (one-year minimum deal, guaranteed, per Spotrac)
NBA 2K Player Rating: 71

2017-18 in review: The Warriors had no idea what to expect from Looney, who spent his first two seasons fighting through multiple hip surgeries. But he used his first fully healthy summer to grind himself into terrific shape. The result was the youngest player on the roster coming in and, over the course of the season, proving he is capable of playing of big minutes at significant times. The uncertainty has faded. Looney is an NBA player.

Key stats: 66 gams (four starts), averaging 4.0 points (58.0 percent FG, 54.5 percent FT), 3.3 rebounds, 13.8 minutes.

Season highs: Points (13), rebounds (11), blocks (six), assists (three), minutes (30).

2018-19 outlook: With new acquisition DeMarcus Cousins expected to rehab well into the regular season, there is open competition at center that includes Looney. Though he’s likely to earn some starts at center, he’s more likely to be used as a reserve big man in a small lineup. His offense has been spotty, but there is reason to anticipate improvement. He’s smart and operates well within the team’s switching defensive schemes, gaining the trust of his teammates. As long as he is healthy, though, Looney will get minutes.

Top 10 takeaways from the Warriors Outsiders' tour of the Chase Center

Top 10 takeaways from the Warriors Outsiders' tour of the Chase Center

Earlier this week, we were lucky enough to join in on an exclusive tour of the Chase Center with the entire Warriors basketball operations staff.

Joe Lacob, Bob Myers, Steve Kerr, Kirk Lacob and many others put on a hard hat and boots to check out the future home of the franchise.

Here were some of our takeaways from the experience:

1) They have thought of everything, and one key focus is transportation. Brandon Schneider -- the Warriors' Chief Revenue Officer -- showed us via detailed models and simulations exactly how long it will take fans from all over the Bay Area to arrive at the arena (whether you drive or use public transit). The reality is that getting to Chase Center won't take nearly as long as some people may think. In fact -- even for certain fans coming from the East Bay -- the commute will only be a few minutes longer than it currently takes to get to Oracle Arena. Specifically for those who will take BART from the East Bay, your route will be to get off at Powell and then hop on a Muni bus (which you will board below ground) that will drop you off right in front of the arena on 3rd Street. The Muni project is expected to be completed in December 2019 -- two months after the start of the season. The Warriors will have some underground parking beneath the arena, but the area is also littered with lots that take no longer than 10 minutes to walk to and from (How do we know that? They walked it and timed it just for you).

2) People who own season tickets at Oracle are buying up season tickets at Chase Center at an historic rate. Nearly 80 percent of fans who have attended an appointment at the Chase Center Experience (you have to do this, it's awesome) have purchased season tickets. Historically, teams have seen a renewal of 60-65 percent when migrating fans to a new building.

3) The suites are... really sweet. Dumb pun, we know (that was all Grant), but don't let that take away from the extravagance of the luxury suites. They are bigger, newer, fancier and there are more of them than before. 

4) Andre Iguodala was the lone Warriors player who joined in on the tour. Yes, he played a lot of golf this summer and his best round may or may not have been 75...

5) We look stupid in hard hats and construction gear. But the guys working on the arena don't, and they are doing a helluva job staying efficient yet safe. In fact, we were told they have had the least amount of injuries ever for a project that big.

6) There will be lots of bars and lounges for fans to enjoy, scattered throughout the arena. The concourses will be bigger, the food will be better, and there is a really cool open lobby in the entry way with a ticket office that resembles a hotel concierge, rather than bank tellers. You won't have your ticket scanned immediately upon entering the building, so you can hang out in the lobby if you are waiting for friends to arrive or if it's raining.

7) The last completely privately funded NBA arena was built for the Utah Jazz in 1991 for about $90 million. The Chase Center will be a little more than that. And by a little, we mean a ton.

8) The Chase Center sits between 3rd Street and what is now South Street. But that won't be the case for much longer. South Street will become "Warriors Way." When it was mentioned that the full address may be "1 Warriors Way," Iguodala quietly suggested "30 Warriors Way." Hmmmmm, not a bad suggestion.

9)  Holy s***, the Chase Center is going to be amazing.

10) We talked with Bob Myers and Steve Kerr and here is some of what they had to say:

-Myers: "Joe and the whole crew from the get go were very inclusive as far as what's most important to us. We're not picking out the color of the walls or the seats. But for us, it started out that we wanted two practice courts -- two NBA full courts with the hopes of having at least six baskets. The more baskets, the more space, is better ... easy ingress and egress out of the building for players. You don't want to have a practice facility where guys are so burdened in getting there that they just say, 'I'm not going to the facility. I don't want to workout.' It has to be easy for them to get from the practice facility into the arena, into the weight room, into their locker room -- so just the ease of use really."

-Kerr: "I was here like a year ago and it was kind of a big hole in the ground, and most guys haven't been here since. It's great to see the progress but it's also a reminder that our lives are gonna change and pretty much everybody on the coaching staff is gonna have to move. Sometimes that is exciting and sometimes that's unnerving -- probably a little of both. We're all just sort of watching this thing go up in awe and wondering where we are gonna live and how's this all gonna work, but we''ll figure it out."

Kerr also said that although he recently bought a house in San Francisco, he isn't moving in until next summer. So no, he hasn't mapped out his route to the arena just yet...