Right as Ryan: Lakers: Moving on from the Mamba

Ryan Chae, Sports Editor

Kobe Bryant? Sounds old. But D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson? Now those are some fresh names. Watch out world, Showtime is back, or at least on the path to it.

From the catastrophe known as the 2012-2013 Lakers superteam to the multiple season ending surgeries from Kobe, the Los Angeles Lakers have had their fair shares of woes over the last four years.

However, it seems that with the retirement of the Black Mamba, the Lakers have shed their old skin and grew a new layer.

As of now, the team is 10-12, and rising in the West. It might not look impressive, but compared to last year’s team, it’s quite amazing.

The ten wins are more than half of the total victories the team had last year, a year in which the Lakers also surpassed their franchise loss total with 65. Now, they’re now serious contenders for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

This didn’t just magically happen all in one offseason. It started in the drafts when Randle and Clarkson were taken in 2014 while Russell was selected second overall in 2015.

For the young Lakers to really grow out of their shells and mature, the team had to move on from the past. The retirement of Kobe and firing of Byron Scott showed that they were ready to move on.

The departure of Kobe allowed for the younger players to step up and freed up a ton of cap space for the team,  but it was Scott’s firing that was the catalyst for this success.

Scott was stubborn and cold toward younger players like Russell and Clarkson. He was preventing the future cornerstones of the franchise from developing and was killing the Lakers. And as much as I dislike the Purple and Gold, it was a travesty to see one of NBA’s greatest franchises kill itself.

Thankfully, Scott was fired this past summer and replaced by the most logical fit: Luke Walton.

Yes, Luke Walton. Yes, the guy that was known for his bench warming skills back when he was a player. But as a coach, the man should not be underestimated.

Walton has been surrounded by basketball geniuses his entire life. His dad is Hall of Famer Bill Walton and some of his coaches were Lute Olson, one of the greatest developmental coaches, and Phil Jackson, who is arguably the greatest coach in the history of the game.

The rookie head coach displayed his capability when he coached the Warriors for the first half of the 2015 season and led them to a record-breaking 24-0 start. Along the way, Walton was named the Western Conference Coach of the Month for September.

If you still don’t believe me, just look at the way the Lakers play this year compared to last season.

The ball is finally moving around. The players are actually smiling. Nick Young is actually productive! The team is playing smart and fun basketball, something I haven’t seen in the last few seasons.

What’s even more interesting is that they don’t even have any players averaging above 20 points, and they’re still seventh in the league in points per game.

Their leading scorer is sixth man Lou Williams, who is averaging  17 points a game.

Speaking of bench players, the Lakers have the best bench in the league and it’s not even close. The bench is averaging 52 points a game and the second team on that list is behind by nine points.

The Lakers have also put up some impressive victories over some good teams like the overpowered Warriors and the new look Chicago Bulls.

With all the early success of this year’s team, it’s scary to think that the core players are so young. Russell is only 20, Randle is 22, Clarkson is 24, and this year’s number two overall pick, Brandon Ingram, is only 19.

If the management can keep them together, with Walton captaining the ship, the Lakers could have more than just 16 banners in the future.