Leaving Warriors for Lakers 'a tough decision,' Luke Walton says

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Luke Walton knows he has a good thing going as an assistant with the Warriors, yet the pull of the Lakers head-coaching job was understandable.

Turns out, in fact, it was irresistible.

"It was a tough decision, but I didn't have to sleep on it because I already kind of thought it out," Walton said Saturday, addressing reporters (via ESPN.com) for the first time since the news broke Friday. "Obviously, I love that the past two years, the players here are incredible, not just talent-wise, but the people they are. I love the coaching staff I work with here."

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Being a former Laker and Southern California native affected his decision, he admitted.

"The fact I played for the Lakers, and I feel part of that family, I still root for them," he said. "Even before I took this job, I watched Laker games and hoped that they succeed and win, so it's kind of nice to be able to go back and try to help rebuild what they used to have there."

Walton — who, according to the Los Angeles Times, will be paid $25 million over five years — will remain on the Warriors' staff for the remainder of the playoffs (Golden State opens its second-round playoff series Sunday against the Trail Blazers). After taking the job, he said the hard part was breaking the news to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, for whom Walton filled in this season while Kerr was out following back surgery.

"I was a little nervous about making the phone call because we have such a good thing going here, and I respect him so much," Walton said of Kerr. "But he was blown away. He couldn't believe how quickly it had happened, but he was so excited. It was like two friends talking. He was really, really happy for me, the opportunity. We had that call, and I was at his house three hours later."

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The move from Oakland to L.A. is some 370 miles, but, given the teams' current situations, it may as well be 37,000. Walton is leaving a team that won an NBA-record 73 games this season and is chasing its second straight title for a Lakers team that was a franchise-worst 17-65. Walton says he is up for the challenge.

"(The Lakers) laid it all out. They showed what they want to do, players they plan on going after, all that stuff," Walton said. "That's exciting to me. Get to be with one of the greatest organizations in the history of sports, and they're ready and willing to get after it."

For now though?

"My priority is winning a championship right now, and the Lakers know that," Walton said. "And they know that's how it should be, and we have the chance to do something very special here."