The man directing the best team in the NBA looks young enough to suit up for the squad.
Luke Walton, 35, retired from the NBA in 2013 and is in just his second season as an assistant coach. And when Golden State coach Steve Kerr announced he was taking a leave of absence to recover from back surgery, it was Walton tabbed to serve as interim head coach.
The job seems simple enough. The Warriors are the defending NBA champions, so just don’t mess it up. Walton hasn’t done that. The Warriors are off to a 10-0 start and Stephen Curry is on a record-setting pace with his outside shooting.
Walton couldn’t have fallen into a better situation for his first head coaching job, even if it is an interim position.
Walton played for two legendary coaches in his career. He starred at the University of Arizona under Lute Olson. In the NBA, he played for Phil Jackson.
It was Jackson who got Walton into coaching while he played for the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Back when I was a player, I hurt my back pretty bad and I couldn’t play,” Walton said. “And Phil invited me into the coaching room and had me do some stuff that he’d have coaches do. I enjoyed that time and thought when I was done playing for good that’s what I’d like to get into.”
Walton was a player development coach with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League for the 2013-14 season before joining the Warriors last season.
Kerr, like Walton, also played for Jackson.
Walton’s style leans more toward Jackson than Olson, mainly because Walton is coaching in the NBA. The college style does not go over too well with pros, who do not want the constant instruction that’s often needed in college.
But Walton’s coaching philosophy continues to evolve.
“I think it’s a natural progression,” Walton said. “It’s probably been developing in me before I even realized I wanted to be a coach just from the coaches I played under. But since I’ve gotten into this coaching business, I kind have spent more thinking about it and trying to pick up as much as I can from different people.”
The more the Warriors win, the more likely Walton is to have a franchise eventually give him a chance to be a head coach. His wins count toward Kerr’s win total as long as he’s in the interim role.
So officially Kerr is 77-15 as a coach and Walton has led 10 of those wins.
What Walton will not do is get so caught up in his own desires that he disrupts perhaps the most fun team to watch in the NBA.
“Right now, not that it’s any different from the way I would head coach, it’s more about trying to do what Steve would do and run the organization as if he were still here,” Walton said. “And that’s what we try to do.”
And there’s not much to complain about through 10 games.
If it weren’t for Stephen Curry, more people would be talking about why Russell Westbrook is the NBA’s best point guard.
Westbrook is averaging 25.2 points, 10.9 assists and 8.6 rebounds. Not many players can boast they are averaging nearly a triple double.
Even if Kevin Durant plays most of the season, Westbrook could find himself ahead of him in the MVP voting. It seems only Curry could keep Westbrook from winning it at this rate.
Where’s the defense in Memphis?
That the Grizzlies are giving up 100.6 points per game isn’t horrible until you realize they only score 91.3 points per game.
Memphis also is allowing teams to shoot 46.6 percent, ranking 27th in the league.
No one expects the Grizzlies to be a high-powered offense, but if the defensive numbers do not improve, the Grindhouse in Memphis will not be open for business in the postseason.
“Like Michael Jordan was a whole other thing, this guy is his own thing. It’s beautiful for basketball.”
– Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about Curry, who scored 46 points in a win over the Timberwolves.