Exit interviews: Luke Walton has heart-to-heart conversation with Phil Jackson about his reduced role this season
Over the years, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has often joked that he viewed Luke Walton as his "son."
The similarities run strong with both being hungry utility players, enjoying the same kind of music and strongly believing in the principles surrounding the triangle offense.
Walton's exit interview was surely going to be sentimental because of the deep respect they have for each other, but he said he wanted to make sure he didn't avoid talking about the issue that had been bothering him all season: Despite making it through the season without any major injury, Walton was frustrated after playing a career-low nine minutes, contributing 1.9 points on 32.8% shooting.
"[Jackson said] his game plan was to have a second unit at a much faster speed than the first unit," Walton said. "I'm more of a bring-it-up-and-run-the-offense. That left me out of the rotation a bit."
Walton said the situation by no means soured his relationship with Jackson, and in fact was the reason he brought it up, knowing he could be upfront and honest with the coach without any consequences.
"He's a great coach and a great man," Walton said. "I've learned so much from him as far as my eight years and basketball is concerned," Walton said. "I learned from him growing up as a person and the way I lived my life and watching him and talking to him. Seeing all of his kids at the game and knowing it was his last run, it was tough not to send the guy out on top."
Among the other highlights of Walton's exit interview
--He strongly endorsed Brian Shaw to be the Lakers' next coach, and argued that the Lakers need to keep running the triangle.
--He questioned Magic Johnson's assertions that the Lakers need to be "blown up," citing the team's championships titles in 1985 and then in 1987 and 1988 after losing in the 1986 Western Conference finals to Houston: "I don’t see how it's any different from that. ... We had a bad year, and we're all upset about it. Everyone is angry ... and it hurts. It's a deep, empty hole right now. It's going to be a long summer dealing with that. [But] I don't see why any reason why the team can't come back."
--He faulted the team for running the installed defensive scheme too inconsistently and only running a "basic" version of the triangle.
--He indicated that it was easier said than done to have "intense practices," as Andrew Bynum said he wanted, because of the team's injuries and basketball mileage. He made it clear that the team didn't just mess around in practice, saying Jackson's sessions were very comprehensive.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers forward Luke Walton reflects on the season as he answers reporter's questions about the Lakers season ending and his future with the team at the Laker's practice facility in El Segundo Tuesday. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times