Walton wants Lakers to battle on after missing playoffs
Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton conceded the team's official elimination from playoff contention was "tough" to take, but urged his players to keep fighting over the final 10 games of the season.
For the sixth straight year, the Lakers (31-41) will not be in the postseason – not the outcome they expected after signing four-time NBA MVP LeBron James.
Their fate was formally sealed on Friday in a 111-106 home loss to the Brooklyn Nets, a fifth straight defeat coming despite 25 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds from James, as well as 33 points and 20 rebounds from an inspired JaVale McGee.
Walton, whose job security has been the subject of significant speculation, revealed his message going forward will remain the same as he wants his players to embrace the last stretch of games.
"It's going to be that message every day for the final three weeks," Walton told reporters. "It's still about players getting better.
"It's still about going out there and respecting the game and giving everything we have to try to win. We owe that, like I said, to ourselves, our team-mates, the organisation, to the fans."
Walton urged his players to find a way to win their next game against the Sacramento Kings in order to end their slump.
He added: "It's just tough when you're down and you're losing games and it seems that all the bounces, the calls, all the 50-50 things just happen to go against you.
"So that's not me feeling sorry for us. That's me telling the guys, look, we got to keep playing this hard and find a way to scrap the next win out because it's the only way to get off the type of skid that we're on.
"But I do give our guys a lot of credit for coming and competing like that again [against the Nets]. Unfortunately, it ended up in a loss again."
The Lakers sit 11th in the Western Conference and this is only the third time in James' 16 NBA seasons he has missed the playoffs.
Luke talks about what led to JaVale’s career-high night. pic.twitter.com/Yo8bv91MvM— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 23, 2019