Lakers playing a different tune in Luke Walton’s practices

first_imgThe visual outside of his window usually told Mitch Kupchak some important aspects about his team. With his second-floor office overseeing the practice court, the Lakers’ general manager could see a few key details up close.He could evaluate how often and how hard players worked. Kupchak could also view how a coach organized practice. But as the Lakers continued informal summer workouts, Kupchak witnessed something he called “completely new.”“Sometimes I’m glad I’m in my office rather than on the court because it’s loud,” Kupchak said on Tuesday before training camp started at UC Santa Barbara. “Some of it has to be censored. So we have to be careful with who else is in the gym. I guess that’s part of the times. But it’s a little racy.”Yes, most NBA players love hip-hop music, a genre usually guaranteed to feature a parental advisory sticker on every album. But just as parents may shield children from loud instruments or offensive lyrics, Lakers coach Luke Walton wants to expose his players to their musical choices. The practice stems from a tradition Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr adopted during Walton’s past two years as an assistant for one specific reason. The routine fielded effective results. Told about Kupchak’s remarks about the music, Walton joked, “I enjoy pushing Mitch out of his comfort zone.”“For mine and the players, our viewpoint is the same in censoring the music,” Walton said. “It’s a nice mix we have going on.”The practice reflected Walton’s laid-back personality. How the Lakers conducted the playlist captured Walton’s collaborative style.Video coordinator Will Scott put together an unspecified playlist. Walton plans to shift those responsibilities to others depending on the day.“I leave that to the players. We’ll do something on players’ birthdays where they can make the playlist,” Walton said. “If it’s my birthday, maybe I’ll put together a playlist. But for the most part, it’ll be on whatever players we decided to make captains or whoever likes music the most.”Walton continued creating that light-hearted atmosphere on Tuesday in different ways.He cut out one pre-planned drill out of practice after believing it would be redundant. Walton also gave players the chance to end practice early if they made 15 out of 20 free throws. If that happened, Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw promised he would complete 20 pushups. So when Lakers center Timofey Mozgov sank the last foul shot, Lakers forward Julius Randle hovered over Shaw to make sure he paid his bet.“He wasn’t going all the way up,” Randle said. “I had to make sure he was getting all the way down.”Lakers longtime consultant Bill Bertka then told the 50-year-old Shaw, “you’re too old to workout!”“It’s a way for me to sneak in a workout,” Shaw said, laughing. “I have to get in shape.”Walton did not exactly have his players get in shape with conditioning-heavy drills like former coach Byron Scott did the previous two years. Then, Scott placed trash cans around the gym in case players needed to throw up. Scott usually opened and ended the practices with running drills. Hence, Russell described Walton’s practices as different “100 percent.”But just because Walton may reduce practice time even during poor efforts, his players hardly fooled around. After playing for two Hall of Fame coaches (Lute Olson, Phil Jackson), Walton focused most of his practice preaching fundamentals. So his players went through numerous shell drills that forced the Lakers to communicate together.“We’d like to play more but there’s more teaching,” Walton said. “So it’s kind of counter-productive to have music blaring when you’re trying to teach.”As the Lakers learned on Tuesday, however, it is productive to have music blaring when they’re trying to create a more joyful atmosphere receptive to that teaching. “I always loved playing basketball with music on,” said Walton, who played the majority of his 10-year NBA career with the Lakers (2004-2012). “With the players, you could see some bounce in their step when they had music going. That’s something I enjoyed as a player and I saw it work with the team.”Granted, the Warriors made two consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and won one championship because they had consistent outside shooting (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson) and defensive consistency (Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green). Walton called Tuesday’s practice a “success” mostly because he spent the three—hour session going over team defensive concepts after the Lakers fared 26th out of 30 NBA teams last season in total points allowed (106.9).Yet, the Warriors maximized their talent partly because of the positive vibes stemmed from transforming some of practice into a jam session. The Lakers quickly felt in a good mood on Tuesday because of the music blaring through the loud speakers before practice began.“When I’m with a few of my teammates and we’re playing a certain type of music, the vibe is different,” Lakers second-year guard D’Angelo Russell said. “Then when you play that music that gets you excited, hyped and rowdy, the whole vibe changes.”The Lakers’ musical practices provided a window into Walton’s psyche.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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