How laid-back were things Sunday in Lakerland? Assistant coach Kurt Rambis got tired of waiting after about 30 seconds of us interviewing Luke Walton and left to take a shower and go home. So assistant Brian Shaw came out, took a couple of good-natured digs at Rambis, and answered our questions.
Shaw said things have been a little different not having Phil Jackson around.
“Every coach that’s on that staff has an opinion,” Shaw said. “That’s what Phil likes. When he’s here, as a head coach you don’t want all your assistants to be on the same page. You want them to debate and argue. You take all that information into consideration, but then you say, `This is how we’re going to do it’ and we follow suit.”
Shaw said the first 1 1-2 days of training camp were a little less organized than usual but the staff has adjusted quickly. Jackson and Rambis are talking daily.
On a completely different note, Sasha Vujacic and Vladimir Radmanovic have taken to pairing off when they shoot after practice. It looks like Vujacic, who was mentored by Vlade Divac during his rookie season, has welcomed the addition of a new Vlade to the team.
Here’s a story on the Lakers’ second-longest tenured player after Kobe Bryant. Would you have guessed that’s Luke Walton? (He and Brian Cook actually share the distinction, in the interest of accuracy.)
By Ross Siler
EL SEGUNDO–With the departure of Devean George this summer, Luke Walton is now one of only three holdovers from the Lakers team that lost to Detroit in the 2004 NBA Finals, along with Kobe Bryant and Brian Cook.
Every time Walton has showed up for training camp, in addition, the Lakers have had a new look from the season before.
He was a rookie on the Finals team with four probable future Hall of Famers and thought, “I was going to win a championship just walking in the gym.’
The draft-lottery season after the Shaquille ONeal trade came next, followed by the return of Phil Jackson as coach and an agonizing seven-game loss to Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
The Lakers have not broadcast their expectations for this season – - Kwame Brown said it would be a “letdown not to reach the second round – - but Walton thinks the Lakers have as good a chance of advancing to the Finals as any Western Conference team.
“We feel like were at that level, Walton said. “We dont feel like theres a team out there thats just better than us. We feel like when were playing at the top of our game we can play and beat anyone else in the league.
The only proof Walton needed came after watching Phoenix lose to Dallas in six games in the conference finals. The Lakers also will bring back 11 players from last seasons team, which learned to play together in the triangle offense.
“As a team and a unit, you have a lot more confidence in each other, Walton said. “As opposed to last year when so many times the whole season, we were losing close games because we didnt really have that confidence about us. We had it about Kobe, but not about us as a team.
For his part, Walton is hoping to get through October healthy, as opposed to the last two years.
He is wearing compression leggings on the court to keep his hamstrings warm through all the stopping and standing of camp. Walton suffered a strained hamstring in the exhibition opener last season and went on to miss 11 regular-season games.
“My body feels better this training camp than it has since Ive been in the league, said Walton, who averaged a career-best 19.3 minutes last season.
His role also has yet to be defined. Walton moved into the starting lineup at the end of last season but the Lakers signed free-agent forward Vladimir Radmanovic in July, likely sending Walton back to the bench.
“With the way our team is set up, Walton said, “we have so many different versatile players that Im sure were going to use different starting lineups.
Walton is comfortable both as a starter and floor leader of the second team. Playing with the starters gives Walton a chance to settle into the game; coming off the bench usually lends itself to team play without the stars on the court.
Report card: Assistant coach Brian Shaw singled out Danilo Pinnock, Jordan Farmar, Brown and Walton for how they played in Saturdays scrimmage. Brown converted his opportunities in the post and Pinnock showed his athleticism.
“(Farmars) team was kind of stacked against him, Shaw said, “but he held his own and he did well.