Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar forward LeBron James is praising former Lakers’ head coach Luke Walton, who is now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, when the Kings came in to play the Lakers on Friday.
James says that with all the devastating injuries and the non-stop distractions of the constant trade rumors, Walton “did as great of a job as you could do under the circumstances”, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.
Walton was the head coach during James’ first season with the Lakers in 2018-2019 and led the team to a 37-45 record, missing the playoffs.
“Throughout everything that was going on, we were two of the guys that just tried to remain positive and patient, even with the circumstances that we had,” James said during shootaround on Friday.
James reflected on the challenges of last season, pointing to key injuries as contributing factors to the disappointing season.
“I mean, we were right where we wanted to be on Dec. 25, went up into Golden State and played against a very good team and had a very good game,” James said. “And then the injury happened and I’m out 6½ weeks.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that, including myself and including Luke. And we were just behind the eight ball. But throughout it all we just tried to remain positive, even throughout with the young guys, with the older guys and whatever the case may be. So I think he did as great of a job as you could do under the circumstances.”
“Um, I agree with LeBron,” Walton said. “[There’s] a longer answer and I’ve spent time reflecting on last season, but for now, couple of hours before a game, it is more focused on tonight’s task and our game planning and rotations and things like that.”
Walton is now at the helm in Sacramento, but he talked about how special it is to return to Los Angeles, even on the opposing side.
“It’s always a special place for me to come into this building,” Walton said. “I have a lot of great memories in L.A. It’s a great opportunity playing here and coaching here.”
“LeBron, he’s one of the greatest players of all time if not the greatest,” Walton said. “So I’m sure last year getting hurt, not making the playoffs, I mean, he’s going right now. And this team kind of follows that lead. They’re playing incredibly well. Their defense and offense starts with him. He looks really good.”
Lakers’ Dwight Howard Talks Bitterness Towards Magic, Fans
Los Angeles Lakers big man Dwight Howard admits that his departure from the Orlando Magic via trade back in 2012 led to a lot of bitterness between he and the Magic organization, as well as the fans.
Howard had a similar departure from his failed first stint with the Lakers, several seasons ago, and has used this season to mend fences and win the Laker fanbase back, and now, Howard was looking to do the same when the Lakers visited the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.
“In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way,” Howard said, according to USA Today Sports’ Sam Amick. “If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media.
“Orlando was it,” Howard said. “I did not want to leave all that behind — the city, just everything about it. The fans. But I wanted a change for my life. I just felt like there was something else out there for me”
Howard was the Magic’s franchise player after the team used the #1 overall pick in the 2004 draft to add him to the team. Howard propelled the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009, and won three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards during his tenure with the team.
“I think it takes everybody a while to get over things, but time should heal wounds, and if not, got to let that s— go,” Howard said, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “That’s how — I’m sorry — that’s how I look at it. I’ve let a lot of things go in my heart, things that have kind of held me down. Things that I had towards the Magic and just how the situation ended. How I was treated by the fans and stuff like that. But I had to let that bitterness go. There’s no need to hold on to it. When I let it go, it just made my life a lot better. Just more free.”
“I got blessed to come back and play with the Lakers, and I’m in a really good situation,” Howard said. “I’m pretty sure there were a lot of people here who were super hurt and disappointed that I left. And I’m sorry for that. You know, I apologize if they felt that way. But I never would have been the person I am today if I would have stayed here. So I’m very thankful that everything that has transpired has transpired and it’s made me the best version of Dwight Howard. I never thought this would happen. So, I’m happy that it happened. I know that it broke a lot of people’s hearts. It broke my heart, too. But, man, at the end of the day, I’m free. I feel really good.”
Howard, 34, says that he hit “rock bottom” in his personal life this past summer, and has been working on putting the pieces back together, and has been a bright spot on an impressive Lakers roster this season.
“I was super bitter at a lot of the things that transpired behind closed doors that none of the Magic fans or people really know about,” he said without revealing specifics. “I never said anything about it. I never bashed or talked anything bad about this team. But I did have a lot of bitterness in my heart towards the organization and even the fans of how they treated me when I came back. But I let it go. I was super bitter, but I let it go. And by letting it go, it just dropped all the weight that I had and it just made me a better person.”
“I have nothing to prove to nobody,” Howard said. “I’ve done an amazing job in my career so far, so I’m not out here trying to prove how many points I can score or trying to prove I’m Dwight Howard. I know who I am, know who I represent and know what this team needs in me for us to win.”
His team has been appreciative of what Howard has done for them this season.
“I’m really enjoying my time with him. … He’s really bought into and bringing a seriousness about his business and his approach” Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s been all business. He’s really bought into that defensive-rebounding, lob-threat, roller type of role. It’s a big shift, but he’s really embraced it and excelled in that. He’s been a star in his role.”
“I don’t look at the years that were bad in people’s eyes as, ‘Oh, man, I should have stayed where I was at,’ ” Howard said. “I was very comfortable here in Orlando and I needed to get out of that comfort zone, find out who I am as a person and as a man and it just made me a lot better. So, I’m very thankful for that. And there is times where I thought what would have happened if I would have stayed here and stuff like that, but I’m at the right place at the right time and that’s really the only thing that matters.”
Howard has averaged 6.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game this season for Los Angeles.
Lakers, LeBron James Showing Marked Strides on Defense
Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar LeBron James is crediting improved health and hard work for his drastic improvement on the defensive end of the court, and James isn’t the only one making an impact on defense for the Lakers this season.
“I’m playing injury free. I’m not injured. My quick twitch is back. My speed is back, my strength is back,” James said, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
The Lakers put that defense on display in a 103-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, which boosted their record to 5-1 on the season.
“Playing with a torn groin last year — even when I came back it was still partially torn — it was difficult to be able to move and shift like I’m capable of doing that defensively,” James said. “For me, I just take the challenge. I love being challenged. Coach [Frank Vogel] challenged me, AD [Anthony Davis] challenged me, I challenged myself.
“I put a lot of hard work into my offseason by getting my quick twitch, getting my bounce back, getting my speed back, my reaction time back. My mind has always been there. That’s what it’s all about.”
James’ resurgence on the defensive end of the floor has only mirrored what the Lakers team, as a whole, has done.
“Well it’s contagious, and his commitment on that end of the floor has been a great surprise for us in terms of just how proficient he’s been,” Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel said of James’ impact. “He’s leading the charge with care factor on that end of the floor. When he’s working that hard and caring that much about getting stops, it carries over to everybody else, and you see it on the floor.”
“Obviously we still have a lot to work on offensively, but we try to make sure that we strive on defense every game,” Davis said. “We want to be the best defensive team in the league, and we’ll be tough to beat.”
“I don’t see it as a role, I see it as my purpose,” Lakers’ center Dwight Howard said. “I think it’s my purpose to go out every single night and play hard defense, trying to block every shot, trying to be in the paint, get a lot of steals, go for loose balls. Whatever I can do for this team, be of service, that’s my mission. I don’t see it as my role, I see it as a purpose.”
“All of us, all of us, with LeBron and AD being the leaders of the team it starts with them,” Howard said. “The first guys on the court it starts with them. The second unit, the Bad News Bears — not the Bad News Bears in a bad way, but they’re going to bring bad news to the other team. That type of bad news. But we come out and you play that hard, tough-nosed defense, it makes it tough for teams to score, then they’ve got to deal with our first unit again.”
It’s a mantra that the Lakers are preaching, and one that is panning out for the Western Conference powerhouse thus far this season.
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Lakers’ Anthony Davis Discusses Debut
Los Angeles Lakers superstar big man Anthony Davis is used to handling the majority of the workload for his team in order to have any success on the court, but after his debut with the Lakers at the Staples Center on Wednesday, Davis is realizing that things are different for him now.
Davis doesn’t have to do everything for his team.
“It takes a load off me,” Davis said after the Lakers’ 126-93 victory over the Golden State Warriors, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “It feels good knowing that you don’t have to do much. Everybody has a role, and when you have guys all over the board who can score the basketball, you don’t need to do everything every possession.”
Davis had a solid outing, posting 8 points, 8 assists, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in his first game since spraining his right thumb early during their game last weekend against the Brooklyn Nets in China.
“He has seen multiple defenders for seven straight years in New Orleans. He is able to read the defense. He can create for himself any time,” Lakers’ forward LeBron James said of Davis.
“There are not many guys in our league that can affect the game the way AD does. He can score, rebound and pass. He just does it at a high level.”
“It doesn’t have to always go through LeBron like it has with teams past, and it doesn’t always have to go through AD,” Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel said. “Quite frankly, even when those guys are out, I love the role players that we have and their ability to carry the load as well. Whether it’s having two lob threats, and playing the spread game. We’ve got a number of shooters out there that can make you pay when we force help, and there’s a lot of experience on our club, so hopefully the usage and workload will be spread out.”
James is also happy that the addition of Davis will help ease the load on him as well.
“My perspective, personally? It sounds good. It sounds good,” James said. “I saw a stat earlier today where I have 7,000 miles more than Vince Carter or something like that. He’s like seven years older than me.”
‘m born to have workload,” James added. “It is who I am, both on and off the floor.”
“We are just playing together, playing for each other,” Davis said. “It’s going to be a fun year, the way we are moving the basketball, the way we are playing defensively, helping each other out. It is going to be fun. We know it takes all of us to win. We are trying to set a standard right now.”
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