Walton's young Lakers school Pelicans
Los Angeles (AFP)
The Los Angeles Lakers powered past the struggling New Orleans Pelicans 126-99 in a reunion for coaches Luke Walton and Alvin Gentry.
Walton and Gentry were both assistants on Steve Kerr's staff at Golden State when the Warriors won the 2015 title.
And Gentry isn't surprised that Walton has the young Lakers, demoralized after a franchise worst 17-65 season and learning to live without retired superstar Kobe Bryant, playing buoyant basketball.
"He can relate to anyone," Gentry said of Walton, who took the Lakers helm this season. "If you're around him for a whole season, you see how he deals with people, see how much basketball knowledge that he has.
"It doesn't surprise me what they're doing. He'll get the most out of any player he has.
"I know that one of the young guys said 'I'll take a bullet for him,'" Gentry said.
"In our profession," he added with a laugh, "if a player's willing to take a bullet for you, you've accomplished a lot."
The Lakers notched their fifth win in six games on Saturday, with 23 points from Jordan Clarkson, 22 from D'Angelo Russell and 21 from Lou Williams, who is the league's leading scorer off the bench.
They took full advantage of an injury scare to Pelicans star Anthony Davis, who had scored 13 straight points as New Orleans trimmed the lead to 63-62 when he came down from a layup clutching his back in agony.
Davis went to the locker room and while he was gone the Lakers out-scored the Pelicans 16-4 to build a 79-64 lead.
Davis returned six minutes later, but even his game-high 34 points -- to go with eight rebounds and two blocked shots -- weren't enough.
Davis's became the ninth player in league history to score 300 points and grab 100 rebounds in his first 10 games of a season.
He joined David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal as the only players to average 30 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in the first 10 games -- but the Pelicans fell to 1-9.
The Pelicans will try to regroup before hosting Boston on Monday, while the Lakers move straight on to face the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis on Sunday.
Walton said his players are gaining in confidence with every win but said they remain a work in progress.
"Learning to believe in yourselves and learning to close out ballgames is not easy," he said. "This group of guys is starting to figure that out."
© 2016 AFP