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Luke Walton: Exit Interview

June 20, 2009 | 10:25 am

I mentioned it yesterday in posting the Onion satire, but no single player on the the Lakers takes more crap- unnecessarily, I might add- among readers of this space than Luke Walton.  Whether it's the mob mentality that pops up periodically on blogs or that his first name can "cleverly" be altered to "Puke," (Get it?  Luke... Puke!) Walton is a lightening rod for criticism. 

Fortunately, the notion that Walton's very presence is some sort of ready-made antidote for winning is easily contradicted by actual measurements of reality, as is the idea he brings nothing to the floor (only LeBron James averaged more assists per 48 than Walton among small forwards.)  It's not that Walton is a world beater, but he's a solid role player who gave the Lakers some important minutes on both ends, particularly as the season went along. 

Walton changed roles throughout the season, going from virtually no playing time in November to starting to voluntarily heading back to the bench. "With our team goal of winning a title, like we ended up doing, talking to Phil I thought and he thought that it would be best for helping the team putting Trevor (Ariza) in there in the starting lineup and using me to help with the flow of the bench, in that role.  It's great when something pays off like that.  Obviously I want to start, I want to play more minutes and be out there as long as I can.  But to make sacrifices and see other guys on your team make sacrifices and then see it pay off in the long run makes it really sweet to witness."

After some comments about keeping this year's squad together, I asked Walton whether or not he could have seen a title coming this fast, given everything that's happened, from losing Shaq to Kobe Bryant's trade demand and so on, over the past few seasons. "Yeah, but looking back on it now I was probably foolish for picturing that," he said. "We weren't close. The team we have right now is way better, at a more advanced championship (level) than what we were dealing with a couple years ago."

More on his hope to keep the team together next season, and the possibility of repeating:

Finally, Walton says his main homework for the summer is to get his body healthy, both to heal previous injuries and hopefully avoid future ones. Plus some words about being part of the third father-son combination in NBA history to win rings... and the pressure it brings to have highly skilled children of his own.

Previous Exit Interviews: