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Lakers Report Cards: Luke Walton

Photo: Lakers forward Luke Walton during warmups before an April game against San Antonio. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times  In the 14th edition of the Lakers Report Card, we focus on reserve forward Luke Walton.

Grade: D

With conflicted feelings swirling in his mind, Lakers forward Luke Walton entered his exit interview ready to share his sentiments about playing for Coach Phil Jackson while honestly expressing his frustration over a diminished role.

Over the years, Jackson has often joked that he viewed Walton as his "son," with similarities running strong. They had both been hungry utility players, strong proponents of the triangle offense, and, in the eyes of many Lakers fans, the relationship resulted in Jackson elevating Walton to a role he didn't deserve. Too bad that didn't actually fit the reality of the 2010-2011 season, in which Walton played a career-low nine minutes per game, averaging just 1.7 points on 32.8% shooting even though his back was healthy. That's why Walton's exit interview was sentimental, because of the deep respect he has for Jackson, but  equally frustrating because of his diminished role.

“It was very hard. I worked extremely hard this summer to get my back to a level that I could compete and play and help this team, and obviously getting hurt in training camp didn’t help, but I still felt like once I was healthy again and coach knowing what I could do, I’d be able to contribute a lot more than he let me," Walton said during his exit interview. "But [Phil] told me that his game plan was to have the second unit play at a much faster speed than the first unit. I’m more of a let’s bring it up, run the offense and execute, and it kinda left me out of the rotation a little bit, which hurt a lot. But the team was winning, so as long as the team was winning, that’s all that really matters.... So with the sudden loss in the playoffs, now it looks even a little worse. ... I talked with coach for a while, I felt like I had to get some stuff off my chest that had been bothering me, but all in a very respectful way. I told him he means the world to me.” 

Walton's situation  never created friction in the locker room because of his strong relationship with Jackson and Walton's team mindset. Nonetheless, Walton was delusional in thinking he earned more of an opportunity. I had long touted the value Walton had in running the triangle correctly and organizing the bench, a quality that often gets lost in the never-ending hysteria surrounding the six-year, $30-million deal he signed following the 2006-2007 season.

But Walton's shot selection and overall athleticism made him a less desirable option for much playing time. Besides, it was going to be hard for him to eat minutes from Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes, whom the Lakers signed last off-season in case Walton's back became an issue again. In fact, Walton's playing time actually would've diminished even more had Devin Ebanks had not injured his left tibia in the final six weeks of the season.

Surely, with the Lakers showing little semblance of the triangle and the bench continuing to play inconsistently, it would've been understandable if Jackson had given Walton a shot in the postseason. But Walton's strong work ethic and mastery of the concepts proved less important than his actual on-court abilities. That's why the 2010-2011 campaign proved frustrating for reasons beyond the Lakers' failed postseason run. Just when Walton finally became healthy, the Lakers had already acquired players  around him that made him less useful. That feeling is certainly more painful than a pinched nerve in his lower back, leading to more uncertainty about whether his role will change much at all. 

--Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at

Photo: Lakers forward Luke Walton during warmups before an April game against San Antonio. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times 

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LOL Way to chum the waters MM!

Shark fest in 3...2...1...

@888... I was also hoping that Felton would sign for around the MLE. I still think that the Nuggets would be willing to trade him for Lamar Odom straight up. It would be a great trade for both teams.
While I agree that nobody can stop fast quick guards from penetrating without excellent team defense, the simple truth is that better defensive skills by individual players is still a huge part of why team defense works. There is no way that a guy like Curry or Barea at point could contribute as much to good team defense as an excellent defender like Paul, Williams, or Felton. That’s why I don’t buy in that individual defense no longer matters. Great team defense is the synergetic result of coordinated great individual defense. Great team defense still requires players who play good individual defense.


As it was on a chat thread, we were just in the suggestion mode, you introduce another thread. Wow, I give up have a nice day.

Edwin - This was being edited for about an hour. It's not like I just put up the thread in a middle of a conversation

And luke is not even worthy of a freakin grade.


Gotta get Paul or Williams! Would make us Way better and a move toward what the NBA is becoming (Point Guard drive).

The New Look Showtime Lakers 2012:


Would be fun and exciting and great in my opinion.

Nothing to really comment on regarding Luke. It is what it is.

Song for today goes out to OKC for last night’s crushing loss…

7 million dollar cheerleader, pats butts, wave a towel, handclaps, what a expensive joke.

Luke's grade should be an L for leaching. He hasn't done anything to help the Lakers all season long, and yet still got paid. What a free loader...

Luke is slow, can't jump, can't shoot, and can't play D.

Other than that, he is an all-star.

I have the exact same system as the K Bros. Nothing has changed as far as moderating. But that's overlooking one significant piece. I'm one person, not two.

@888... This discussion reminds me of the “practice” season discussions in that I think we always need to be careful when supporting extreme positions such as claiming that the regular season is completely meaningless or that the Triangle Offense does not need a true point guard or that good team defense does not require good individual defense. Usually, the truth is a matter of degree.
We learned the last three years that the regular season is sometimes but not always meaningless. By the same token, I have always believed that the Triangle would run better if we had a true point guard and that team defense will be better if the individuals also know how to play good 1-on-1 defense.
That does not mean that the synergy created from good team defense cannot conceal or make up for deficiencies in speed and quickness by individuals as we have seen that work during the Lakers 17-1 post all-star run as well as our prior two championships. It just means it is easier to create a great team defense when your individual players have solid defensive skills and intelligence.
Frankly, I see the die already cast that the Lakers are going outside for their new coach. I think MM is right in his opinion that the Buss’ want a return to Showtime, which to me means dumping the Triangle Offense and probably trading one of our three bigs for help at the point guard position. Since Jim Buss is solidly behind Bynum, I think it is Pau or Lamar who will be traded for a point guard.
As for how that affects Kobe, I think one of the ways to extend his career is to get him easier baskets by pushing the ball in transition and running plays for him to get easy points via midrange jumpers. I would not even have a problem with running him off screens ala Ray Allen. What I do not want to see is Kobe isolated on the pinch post with the rest of the Lakers just standing around watching.

Best thing Luke could do for the team is retire and give back his horrendous contract.

Cut Darren Dreifrot, I mean Luke Walton some slack

Luke grade = E Good passer but nothing else. A clear case of nepotism with Walton being a hippie and phil one as well.

Medina grade for running the blog = D+; Afraid to accurately describe kobe. Afraid of upsetting the regular posters. Just a fearful man who is afraid of his own shadow.

Luke's role with the team was diminished for a reason. He's not the player he used to be, and his 'used to be' wasn't good enough to begin with. They always say this about Luke Walton: He does things that don't appear in the box score; a gifted passer; smart player... Please, he's not a gifted passer. Turnover prone, and made costly errors with his inbounding passing in big games. He never shot well or consistently, and to say he's a smart player is really saying the players around him are dumb. He was always the slowest man on the court. Every time he and the Lakers' 2nd unit was put in the game to relieve the starters the team's 8+ point leads would be gone by the time the starters would be put back in. Luke should consider himself lucky for getting the contract he signed, and lasting this long for a time. There are plenty of reasons why he never saw any minutes in post season play. He's a likable guy, but let's be honest, he's not NBA calibre, and I don't see any other team picking him up after he's done with L.A.

@MM... You’re going to have to make a choice. You cannot continue to remain lodged between the rock and the hard place. This blog will die as far as commentators unless you do. If you do have the ability to require logins via TypePad in order to post, I think you need to implement that immediately.
I would bet after a small rebellion from a few posters, most of us would gladly accept the login if it would restore instant posting and keep the trolls at bay. Let’s take a vote on it. Here is the poll:
(1 ) Require TypePad login in order to post comments on blog. This would restore instant posting and prevent trolls from hijacking blog handles or posting obscene or unacceptable comments.
(2) Continue as we are now with moderation but no instant posting. This would allow comments to be posted without having to login to TypePad, Twitter, or FaceBook.
So people, speak up! We have a simple solution that will work if you support it. For the good of the blog, I am willing to sign in rather than see this great community crash. How about you?

Luke walton is such a waste of space I think I'll try to waste some more space in his honor.





The contract is not Luke's fault, that's on Kupchek and ol' Mitchy has some real weights around his neck. The thing I do think is on Luke is the fact that his outside shooting has not really improved during his NBA career. He could help the team and increase his playing time by shooting the ball with better accuracy.

It is said that with hindsight, everybody is a genius. But who would have known in 2007 that Luke's career would take such a nosedive?

During his contract year, Luke was only 26 years old, with no history of major injuries, averaging:
11.4 pts,
5.0 reb,
4.3 ast and
shooting 38.7% from beyond the arc.

From a perspective of PJ-led teams, those were TONI KUKOC-esque numbers; even better than RICK FOX stats.

With his pedigree and mastery of the Triangle offense, it seemed like PJ found his next Toni Kukoc and a 6-year $30M contract did not seem, at that time, a risky proposition.

And then, all of a sudden, pffft...

Only later was it realized that the stats during the contract year were buoyed by long hours in the gym, practicing with his U of A buddy, Richard Jefferson. After getting the contract, the extra gym practice also stopped, followed by a string of various injuries and the rest is history.

Wait hold on ... KobeMVP888 is here? Double Whammy! First a Luke thread, and now the 'practice season' king too? Show yourself son, you got a huge bone to chew with the PSP!

On topic, Lucas has been a complete waste of dollars ... that is all. Can't believe someone was actually arguing that Luke was better than Barnes or something along those lines. Then again same person said the regular season was meaningless ...

PSP Intern

Mark you need to get out more.
Luke was ready to play but coach went a different direction.
A "D", really?
Last I checked Luke is still under contract for next season plus!
More like an incomplete but definitely no justification for a "D."

Luke Walton's contract hurt the team in many ways this season. Whoever signed him to that deal is a knucklehead. Shannon Brown could not get close to that type of money. Yet Luke sits on the bench as a coaches pet. Kareem could not get a playoff bonus for teaching Bynum and yet Luke is signed to 5 million a year? Luke should have been traded a long time ago but the Lakers kept him around while at the same time disrespecting Kareem! That type of stuff is what really killed the Lakers this season.

The comparison of Luke's contract year performance to Toni Kukoc is simply asinine. That year the Lakers were one of the more atrocious teams in the league (take Kobe off that roster and I would suggest that they would be the worst roster in the NBA). That is the context in which Luke managed to get 11 ppg. Toni Kukoc played on the biggest stage on some of the best teams in NBA history.

If you think Luke's inadequacies suddenly showed up after he signed his big contract you weren't paying attention to pre-contract Luke. Many of us condemned that deal the moment it was announced, because from the very beginning it failed the most basic test of an NBA contract: no other team in the league would have given Luke a comparable 6 year deal....

Kareem wouldn't have been so mad about a statue if Luke Walton didn't get that contract.

LakerTom --

You know I respect a lot of what you have to say about our beloved Lakers, but I would never EVER trade Odom for Ray Felton for many reasons. One, Lamar is a much better baller, on any given night the guy can play like an all-star (having said this, I know he can be so frustrating, at times playing like a scrub). He was just awarded the 6th man of the year award, the first time a Laker has won the award in forever, and we reward Odom by trading him to one of our rivals???

No way, bro. I could see him traded **perhaps** to Orlando for JJ Riddick/J-Rich OR a D-Howard package, but NOT to Denver, no way, never. And what is the fascination with Felton? The speedy Aaron Brooks and many other capable PGs are available right now. After all, what this team needs the most is speed and a 3-point shooting stud.

When is Kupchak going to be properly evaluated? He inherited a championship caliber team (with Shaq and Kobe) built by Jerry West, and he got a "sweetheart deal," from West to get Pau. Kupchak has made horrible decisions. Like re-signing Sasha to another excessively long contract instead of Turiaf, then giving Sasha away (along with this year's first round pick to New Jersey) just to get rid of him. The Walton re-signing is arguably the "worst ever!" He could have drafted Tayshaun Prince and Boozer in 2002 (to eventually replace Rick Fox and Robert Horry). The Lakers would have controlled the decade! Finally, this past off season was totally ridiculous Blake, Barnes, Ratliff give me a break! No other team wanted any of those guys!

Oh yeah, I forgot about Radmanovic, that was another one of Mitch's blunders!

About LUKE:

I don't want to beat a guy when he's down, and I've beat up Walton pleny over the years, but the biggest indictment on Cool Hand Luke is that he never developed a CONSISTENT outside shot. I'll go to my grave believing this no matter how many times people like "LongTime" come to Walton's defense.

Jason Kidd was once a HORRIBLE shooter when he came out of Cal, but over the years he spent hundreds of hours in the gym developing his 3-point shot, and now he's the 3rd all-time greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history. But back in 1995-'99 Jason Kidd SUCKED -- SUCKED! -- as a shooter!!! Even the year that New Jersey played against the Lakers in the Finals, Kidd was, at best, a decent shooter, but he stuck with it and became a great deal better over time.

Walton is slow (strike 1 on this team) and he can't shoot consistently (strike 2 on this lousy-shooting Laker team) and with the PJ gone (that spells strike 3 for Walton), I just don't see where he fits on the Lakers -- unless, of course, Shaw is hired as a coach.

Whoever was responsible for signing Luke to that inexplicable lifetime contract needs to take a very long walk on a short plank into shark-infested waters.

derryl --

The Tayshaun Prince screw-up always bothered me too, as did not signing Chauncey Billups. Instead, Kupchak made Devon George a multi-millionaire followng the Lakers 3-peat against the Nets. Kupchak should've signed Billups that year (and without Billups, the Pistons would've never even made it to the Finals in 2004)! And that Laker team would've won FOUR championships!

Instead, we got Devon George when we easily could've had Chauncey Billups, which would've also prevented the atrocious signing of Gary Payton the following year!

This is interesting...

"[Jerry] West said he was attracted to the Warriors because of the risk-taking nature of Lacob and Guber. He said success in the NBA is built on successfully taking risks.

One the Warriors might need to make this offseason is trading one member of their talented, yet undersized, backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. West said he believes most of the pieces are in place to make the Warriors a playoff team, but that they likely need more size to succeed.

"I've seen teams trade players who score tons of points and people say, 'How in the world can you trade that player?" West said. "He might score tons of points and his team won't win. I've also seen teams trade players who are very good players and you substitute another player in there and the team just fits better together."

Apparently Jerry thinks the Warriors need size, which we (the Lakers) have plenty, but the Lakers lack a true PG with speed, which the Warriors have (Curry?). Could there be a possible trade in the works between the Lakers and Warriors????

Dude...Just having the right PAINT job, don't be HATEN on LUKE. If some Clown gave you a 35 six year deal you'll sit on the bench with your mouth shut too. Hell, Luke will have a Statue outside Staple before Kareem. Just Sayin

>>>Luke Walton's contract hurt the team in many ways this season.

Okay, how. Luke deserved the D he got, maybe lower. But how exactly did Luke's contract hurt the team. Explain it to me so I can understand it.

>>>Whoever signed him to that deal is a knucklehead.

Hindsight is 20-20. And he's the same knucklehead who traded Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol, traded Radmanovic for Shannon Brown, and the ONLY GM in the league to win back to back championships in the past 10 years. You win some you lose some. Luke's contract was a mistake, but only in hindsight.

>>>Shannon Brown could not get close to that type of money.

Actually, if Shannon started for a season and played as well as Luke did for a team that had no cap space to hire free agents outside the team, then he'd probably get something comparable.

>>>Yet Luke sits on the bench as a coaches pet. Kareem could not get a
>>> playoff bonus for teaching Bynum and yet Luke is signed to 5 million
>>>a year?

>>>Luke should have been traded a long time ago but the Lakers kept him
>>> around while at the same time disrespecting Kareem!

Okay, so if he's such a bad player (worst in the league by some bloggers' posts), what team would be stupid enough to trade for him? When are people going to understand the concept that teams will not trade you a good player for one of your worst players.

>>>That type of stuff is what really killed the Lakers this season.

So it had nothing to do with Bynum missing half the season?

It had nothing to do with Kobe tweaking his ankle in the playoffs?

It had nothing to do with Pau shooting 40% for the playoffs?

It had nothing to do with Artest freezing up offensively versus Dallas?

It had nothing to do with the Lakers letting Dallas shoot 50% for a series?

It had nothing to do with Barnes and Blake giving them absolutely nothing off the bench versus Dallas?

It was all Luke's fault... have I got that right?

Yep - Luke deserves a D. If he'd played more and still played as poorly as he did, he'd deserve an F.

But some of you need to recognize that Luke had almost nothing to do with the Lakers losing the Dallas series. If he'd have actually PLAYED a bunch of minutes and played as badly as Barnes and Blake, then yeah, you could hand him some of the blame.

LongTime --

How can Luke play when he's slow and injured all the time? Even PJ had told Walton that he wanted to go with a quicker second unit, which is a backhanded way of telling Walton he's too slow. For a team like the Lakers, that's a death sentence for Walton.

If that's true, then he doesn't belong on this team to begin with, perhaps doesn't belong in the entire NBA. Them's the facts! The man is limited in talent to begin with, add to it his utter lack of speed, plus his injuries... What do you get? A guy who should either be out of the league or ride the pine! It's that simple. It's nobody's fault per se. It just means the guy is not physically up to snuff, not these days anyway.

Again, how can he get into the game when he's injured, and when he's healthy, he slows down the game! It's over for Cool Hand, I'm afraid. And although Luke had nothing to do with the Dallas series, going forward, the Lakers cannot afford to pay a guy $5 million to ride the pine or slow down the game!

Mychael - How did he not get a D? What would your grade be?

Laker Tom - I had proposed some of those ideas, but they were met with resistance. Just to clarify regarding interns. It's not that The Times "can't afford" them. I had often touted the idea of having a college intern help out for credit. But the bankruptcy court won't let us add those kind of hires because they're scrutinizing how we offset the layoffs all the papers have had the past few seasons. Believe me, I would love to have an intern and there are many who would be willing to take an unpaid position. But that sets me up to get legally in trouble.


What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.


PJ & daddy bill, friends, heard luke is headed to radio booth........

I agree, he deserves a 'D'. If it's the one thing that Luke could have improved on, it's his shot. Sure he's slow, but if you can't rely on someone to get steals, rebound, play defense - then at least rely on him to hit the corner 3, or consistent 15-20 footers. I'm afraid Luke's career is over. If Lakers happen to pull off a trade, I think he'd be good to package in.

Jon K --

You gave Joe Smith a "D-" but you give Luke a "D+"???

What gives?

How did Luke earn a D+, a higher grade -- the guy has been here for years and has had the benefit of experience with the triangle. Joe Smith just got here and was never given a chance by PJ whatsoever, and you know it takes at least a solid season to get familiar with the system. Your grade to Joe Smith is utterly unfair and your grade to Luke is a bit of a gift. He deserves an "F" really.

That was my main gripe with Luke - the shooting. I think the criticism spewed at him is overblown. It's Mitch's fault he paid him so much. Luke was just happy to have an offer. For what he was, a second round draft pick, Luke provided what he expected. It's just that one breakout season in 06-07 followed by a trigger happy decision from management set him up for failure. He's always had a positive attitude and had a team-first mentality and he is genuinely well liked in the locker room. I thought it wasn't smart of him to shoot when he got in. It's tough to get in a rhythm when you shoot three-four shots a game, but even by that measure, his shot looked awful. He should've more about doing the little things than shooting.



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