EL SEGUNDO, CA-The Los Angeles Lakers have officially began training camp, kicking off their preseason with media day on Monday at their brand-new UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo. The camera circus marked Magic Johnson’s inaugural media day as president of basketball operations for the Lakers, pairing with the new facility to signify a much-needed clean slate in Los Angeles.
Lakers fans don’t need any reminding of how sub-standard the team has played as of late, but after drafting Lonzo Ball to implement alongside a very impressive core of young players, including former No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram, fans in Tinseltown can regain their boisterousness.
Head coach Luke Walton has tried his best to duplicate more than just the Golden State Warrior’s up-tempo play style, but their camaraderie as well. Unlike seasons past, this team seems to genuinely love each other. The sort of love that blossoms into unselfishness and takes over a team, blessing them with the ability to play great basketball.
“We have this group that has for the most part been in here since May 15, our optional workouts,” Walton said. “Training, coming into the weight room. They are really starting to bond together, working out on weekends even when we’re not around. To me it’s the type of environment and culture we’ve been trying to get into place here since we took over. It’s really exciting to watch that happen.”
“I think moving into this new building has helped speed that process up,” Walton added. “I think all the things that the front office and Rob (Pelinka) and Magic are doing helps speed up that culture. It’s really exciting to see that happening. We had to shut it down a couple times. No matter when you come here, 90 percent of the time its late at night there is someone here working out.
“Because we want people fresh and healthy going into training camp we tried to shut it down on a few weekends, and tell them to stay away. I think that absolutely speaks to the type of guys that we have and the culture that’s being built.”
Even Ball, who will enter his rookie season as the most hyped player since LeBron James, carries an attitude that reflects his altruistic playstyle. So much so, that his teammates most definitely have his back if any players set their sights on him during the regular season.
“I think everyone on the team is going to be behind him, making sure he has a good year. I think he is going to be great”, forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “If they go at him, he’s got 15 guys behind him getting ready to go right back at them. We’re not worried about it.”
Ball isn’t worried about players gunning for him, answering “probably,” when asked if he has a target on his back due to his reoccurring media attention.
“I just go out and do my job,” Ball said. When asked about his goals for this year’s team, the former UCLA star continued his quiet streak, simply stating, “playoffs.”
While the Lakers core is made-up of mostly young players, they have signed several savvy veterans, including former All-Star Brook Lopez, who was acquired in the D’Angelo Russel trade, and center Andrew Bogut ,who agreed to join the team in free agency this summer. These veterans bring a much-needed brand of leadership and playoff experience to a youthful lineup.
Despite the team’s lack of playoff experience, the Lakers’ veterans are confident in the team’s postseason chances.
“Playoffs are a goal for us, no question,” Lopez said. “We realize it’s going to take all of us to step up and buy in to our system. We realize that we have to be a much better defensive team than last year. We are committed to doing that. We realize that getting the stops we need defensively opens us up to get out on the break and get to a lot of our strengths.”