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Walton Prepares Lakers for Exhibition In San Diego

San Diego is a special place for Lakers head coach Luke Walton, who was born and raised in the city that his team will play their next preseason game in on Wednesday.

But the 36-year-old — who has his mother handle ticket requests from friends and family — is keeping his mind on Los Angeles' meeting with Golden State, rather than his own homecoming.

“I got a lot of family and friends coming and it’s always special to go home,” Walton said at Tuesday's practice. “But I’ve been going there for years. It’s great to see them, but it’s much more of a business trip.”

Walton's father, Bill — a San Diego resident who played for the San Diego Clippers during the early 1980s — even has a statue on display at Valley View Casino Center, where the Lakers will face Golden State for the second time in four days.

But Luke Walton was more concerned with the court than the bronze version of his father. Walton was interim head coach of the Warriors when they faced the Lakers in a San Diego preseason tilt last year.

That game had to be called off in the third quarter when water from the ice rink underneath began seeping through the hardwood. Fans were offered a full refund, and Walton said he has been assured that the arena "100 percent fixed" the problem.

“It’s a week before the regular season and we’ve got our All-Stars sliding on every other play,” Walton said. “Obviously you want to play them for the fans that pay good money to come see you, but at the same time we have to worry about them being injured.”

Staying Swaggy
As unexpected as it may be, Nick Young has been the Lakers' most reliable shooter in the preseason, leading the team with 2.8 3-pointers per game on a 56.0 percent clip.

Young attributed some of his success to Walton's influence.

“Just having a coach that has your back and helps you out helps a lot,” Young said. “I’m just going out there with the mindset of just balling out, really.”

Young, who shot a career-low 32.5 percent from deep last year, contrasted Walton encouraging his players to fire open looks with former head coach Byron Scott, who Young said "didn't want us to shoot 3-pointers" during his first season as coach.

But according to Walton, Young has shown improvement in areas other than the 3-point arc.

“I think him and (Jordan Clarkson) have been our best perimeter defenders,” Walton said. “He’s been shooting the heck out of the ball. He’s given multiple effort plays that, as a coach, you love to see. He’s even playmaking. When he’s getting in the lane and they’re collapsing, he’s dropping it off to bigs for easy layups.”

However, the head coach did crash Young's post-practice interview to make light of his small forward's struggles that day.

“Everything I said today about how good he’s been playing was not true in practice today,” Walton said, smiling. “He was awful in practice today.”