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Luke Walton's return helps alleviate some of the injury pain

January 13, 2010 |  3:52 pm

Lakers forward Luke Walton traveled with the team to Texas not expecting he'd be in the lineup. He had spent the previous week practicing and nearing full recovery from a pinched nerve in his lower back that ultimately kept him sidelined for all but nine games.

Instead of appearing on  "The Young and the Restless" or working at his Manhattan Beach restaurant, "Joey's Smokin' BBQ," Walton made the trip.

Talk about good timing.

He played in the Lakers' 105-85 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, a game that turned out to be much more than just their fourth consecutive road loss and their third defeat in the past four contests.

Kobe Bryant missed the fourth quarter because of back spasms, raising questions on whether his litany of other injuries (right index finger and right elbow among them) will get him an endorsement deal with Operation. No word on whether Pau Gasol (right hammy), Ron Artest (right index finger), Sasha Vujacic (right hamstring) and Adam Morrison (flu-like symptoms) will play the board game with Bryant .

Although Coach Phil Jackson had mentioned Walton helps with the team's flow of the triangle offense, Walton's statistical impact is marginal; he's averaging 3.7 points in 10.6 minutes in nine contests.

But from a pure numbers standpoint, Walton's return could be a very good thing for the Lakers. Filling in for a sick Morrison, Walton's six minutes Tuesday  coincided with the Lakers' rally from a 22-point third-quarter deficit. His four points and a steal helped the Lakers cut the deficit to six points with 5:38 remaining before the Spurs went on a 25-5 run.

In the video below, Walton makes some interesting comments about the nature of the Lakers' injuries and how it has impacted the production. Aside from the inevitable drop-off that happens with most injuries, the chemistry has also worsened -- because Mamba's monthlong hurt finger, Artest's Christmas night fall, LO's post-New Year's intestinal flu and Gasol's sore hammy on Jan. 3 all overlapped each other.

And on Tuesday, new injuries emerged with Bryant's back spasms, Artest's right index finger, Vujacic's right hammy and Morrison's flu, adding another layer of difficulty the Lakers must learn how to overcome.

-- Mark Medina

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