The Golden State Warriors had another exhibition game to go before playing the Los Angeles Lakers, when Warriors Coach Steve Kerr addressed reporters Friday morning.
Still, the Lakers, and his former assistant, Lakers Coach Luke Walton, were already on his mind. He offered an unsolicited nugget for them.
“For tomorrow night only because we’re playing the Lakers and it’s Luke, I will just announce now that no David (West), no Andre (Iguodala),” Kerr told reporters in Denver. “I want to give Luke every opportunity to prepare for tomorrow’s clash. Critical game for both teams.”
Walton didn’t miss a beat upon hearing about Kerr’s quote.
“You tell Steve that Lou Williams isn’t playing, so he can have his full opportunity to prepare,” Walton said, with a twinkle in his eye.
Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Walton will face his former team for the first time since leaving the Warriors this off-season. Walton was Kerr’s assistant for the last two seasons. He took over as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, posting a 39-4 record.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Walton said. “Think it’ll be fun seeing some of the old guys and going against Steve on the other side. Should be a good time.”
Williams is simply getting the night off. So far this preseason, Walton has focused on introducing the Lakers’ offense and defense in measured, unhurried fashion. That they’re playing the defending Western Conference champions Saturday night won’t change that.
They aren’t planning to run trick plays.
“Eh, maybe one or two,” Walton said after a beat.
They won’t plot to stop Steph Curry.
“Right now we’re trying to get our defense in,” Walton said. “We need to get really good at the way we play defense. Then eventually once we get really good at that, then we can start manipulating and game-planning for multiple players. …
“We’re not going to pick (Curry) up at half court. We’re not going to do a bunch of crazy schemes. We’re going to continue to work on what our basic defensive principles will be.”
The right way
Before practice broke on Friday afternoon, Walton gathered the team together to talk with them about doing things the right way. General Manager Mitch Kupchak also addressed the players.
“Sometimes we can be lackadaisical and coming in and just because it’s preseason, we come in and do our work and not have energy,” Lakers forward Brandon Ingram said. “(They talked about) just basically coming in here and being consistent and value the basketball and value what we have in the room.”
One player spoke up and echoed the sentiment, adding that he likes to lead by example. That was Williams, who has started every exhibition game the Lakers have played at shooting guard.
Walton compared Williams’ presence in the Lakers locker room to the influence former Laker Lamar Odom had when playing with Walton. It’s a calming presence and one toward which teammates naturally gravitate.
That translates onto the court too.
“To me it’s nice to have a calming presence out there,” Walton said. “That’s kind of the way you want to play. It’s the way Phil (Jackson) taught me when I was a player. … Lou does a good job of keeping it pretty level. He has the respect of all the teammates. He speaks up and pulls guys to the side or talks after practice today. It helps bring the team back to where we need to be.”
Clarkson misses practice
Guard Jordan Clarkson missed Friday’s practice to attend the funeral of his friend Cameron Moore.
Moore, an Alabama Birmingham alumnus, died last week in Macedonia only hours after arriving, having signed with a team there. He and Clarkson both played high school basketball in San Antonio.
Clarkson is expected to return in time for Saturday’s game.
The Lakers will be without point guard Jose Calderon, who has a mild left calf strain. Calderon, who is 35, has had a periodic issue with the calf since the Lakers were in Santa Barbara for training camp. The team is being cautious with his recovery.