As we are all very aware, the Golden State Warriors are off to a scorching start to the season. We have all watched in awe as Steph Curry has done things that no one should be able to to do on a basketball court, the second team has been contributing solidly, and the team are on track to break the record for the most wins in a row to start the season.
But something is different this season.
It might be business as usual on the court for Golden State, but you might notice a slight change in personnel on the side lines. After undergoing back surgery during the off-season, head coach Steve Kerr has been unable to lead his championship team. Stepping up to the plate to take his place has been assistant coach, Luke Walton.
It was never a surprise that Walton, the son of NBA legend Bill Walton, was going to make a big impact on the basketball world. Walton played nine years as a Los Angeles Laker, picking up a couple of championships along the way, and two as a Cleveland Cavalier where he finished up his playing career in 2013. After stepping straight into a role as a player development coach for the Los Angeles D-Fenders as a part of the NBA Development League, Walton was then hired as the assistant coach to Steve Kerr, and an exciting Warriors squad.
To the outsider, things appear to be running pretty smoothly out in Oakland, but Walton still believes that there are things that need to be corrected. “We are playing well, but we are competing at a very high level. Obviously not during the first quarter of the Brooklyn game, but for the most part I think that’s what led to us having this record so far. We’ve been turning the ball over more that we would like for the last few games. We were playing at a higher level I think a couple of games ago in the first half of the Denver game, but since then I feel like we have slipped a little bit. They have been competing and there’s still plenty for us to work on”.
As a rookie head coach, Walton has pretty much walked into the best job in the NBA. What most people don’t realize though, is that as an interim coach, all of the wins that the Warriors are putting together at the moment will actually be credited to Steve Kerr. While Kerr is still attending home games and addressing the team pregame and at half time, at this stage he is still rumored to be sidelined up until the All Star break. This could mean that Walton could very well hold the record (currently 15 wins held by Houston in 1993 and Washington in 1948) for the best start to the season by any NBA coach in history, but all of the wins will be marked down next to Steve Kerr’s name.
On the Warriors winning streak Walton says, “We’re always happy with a win. We always talk about getting better for a championship, now that being said, we’d love keep racking up wins as we go even if we have a sloppy game. We keep winning, and our guys are so good and they play a certain style of basketball, and when they do, we normally get pretty big leads on teams.”
On Tuesday, the Warriors faced the Toronto Raptors in Oakland. The Raptors have been quietly going about their business, holding down the third place in the Eastern Conference. Despite strong performances from DeMar DeRozen and Kyle Lowry, the Warriors seemed to be in third gear all night, stepping up the tempo in five-minute bursts when needed, blowing past the Raptors as their transition defense struggled to keep up with Steph and his charges. As usual, Curry lead the way for Golden State with 37 points and 9 assists, including some daggers from long range, and some clutch free throws late in the fourth when scores when scores were all tied up.
Walton told us after tonight’s game: “Our guys have the ability to make special plays, and it’s not just one or two of them, it’s the whole lineup we had out there at the end. We were thrilled at how we stepped up to finish it and get another win.”
Walton also had another first experience as a coach on Tuesday by getting his first technical foul. “I got one in the preseason, do they count?,” he asked. “Well they counted it out of my paycheck. I feel like I didn’t really deserve the one I got either, but you know, it’s an emotional game, and they called it. I wasn’t trying to get one, but it happened.”
Even if Walton comes out of this season with zero wins next to his name as a head coach, he’s going to be hot property on the coaching market come the end of the season. Luke Walton will be head coach of an NBA team next season, it’s just a matter of where he ends up.
Feature Image: SF Gate
Story Image:NBA/NBC Sports