At the tail end of Thursday's practice in El Segundo, the Los Angeles Lakers offered a rather interesting sight. Five coaches swarmed on defense, as the players tried to work the ball around the intense trapping defense being played by old timers like Brian Shaw, Mark Madsen and Luke Walton.
Yes, the Lakers' head coach takes a hands on approach to teaching, but watching five-on-five drills with five coaches taking on five players with the older five-some flustering the NBA players looked a bit curious.
When asked about the drill, Walton didn't focus on the fact that his coaches had effectively been playing against the players and instead explained that the goal of the drill was to counter teams trapping Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson while players like D'Angelo Russell and Nick Young remain sidelined due to injuries.
The coaches all taking on a hands on approach is the norm at Lakers' practice at this point, so the coach did not even care to address that aspect of the day's class on the court.
As related to Young and Russell, both took part in shooting drills and all non-contact drills at Thursday's practice according to the coach, but neither player expects to play on Friday. Tarik Black did not take part in Thursday's session.
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Walton said regarding Russell's return, in particular, "Until he goes through a full practice and we can get him out there, and if the schedule doesn't allow for a full practice at least some competitive 3-on-3, until that day comes he won't be playing."
That translates to Russell still being at least a game or two away, though the point guard said he had been progressing nicely and stated that he had been cautious until he was "100 percent" healthy before returning to the practice court.
A couple players that will be playing on Friday, though, are Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram, and the duo took part in post-practice one-on-one drills after the team sessions had concluded.
"It's a challenge for me, as well, because he's long, he can move his feet," Clarkson said on the topic of going 1-on-1 against Ingram. "I was just trying to help him out. Guys getting physical with him, (so) I was trying to foul him as much as I can and just trying to put a body on him."
One last video of Jordan Clarkson & Brandon Ingram going 1-on-1 at practice. Both seemed to enjoy the work. JC said it helped him, too. pic.twitter.com/Oqspk53YJS — Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) December 8, 2016
Clarkson hinted that the drill was primarily designed to help Ingram: "A lot of it was coach (Brian) Shaw and coach (Bill) Burtka and stuff, just harping on footwork, all the pivots, being able to get guys off, spacing and being able to take those shots over guys. He's 6-8, 6-9 and long and he's going to be able to shoot over them. Guys like me are going to be guarding him."
Clarkson said that he thinks Ingram is growing more comfortable and said that he expects the 19-year-old to be more aggressive, especially when he's running the point guard position.
While Shaw appeared to be the coach leading the one-on-one drill, Walton came by and saw something. So, he talked to Ingram for a moment and then returned to demonstrate after the two players had concluded their work.
With a couple shared smiles, Walton spoke about defending with hands up invoking the names of guys like LeBron James and Draymond Green. Then, the coach took Ingram on the court 1-on-1 and showed the rookie what he was talking about. This unique hands on approach is why Walton was so popular in Golden State, why he is seemingly everyone's favorite person in El Segundo and why his reputation continues to grow exponentially around the league.
Walton explained what he told the rookie, "He's got a habit of keeping his hands down when he's playing defense and we're trying to get him in the habit of mirroring the ball with one of his hands. With the length he has, he should be able to really affect other team's players. Whether it's deflection or just making it hard for them to see passing angles, when your hands are down, you don't do that. You can see everything."
Afterwards, Luke said he talked to Brandon Ingram about breaking the "habit of keeping his hands down on defense" - Luke's coaching hands on pic.twitter.com/58IUk1nwHE — Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) December 8, 2016
While seeing Walton literally taking a hands on approach to teaching may not be earth shattering news at this stage in the season, it's still unique and continues to resonate with the players, even the day after a 39-point loss. After Walton had taken the extra bit of time with Ingram and given him a fatherly tap on the stomach to signify that the rookie was dismissed, Ingram wore a satisfied smile as he left the Lakers' classroom.