Five things Luke Walton needs for a successful season
1. Stay healthy. Nothing has saddled Luke Walton worse than falling to the injury bug. For a player that has already fallen on the Lakers' depth chart, hurting his back or any other body part will only exacerbate matters.
2. Improve shooting. Of course, staying healthy won't do much if he doesn't offer anything valuable on the basketball court. It's a telling sign that former coach Phil Jackson limited Walton's playing time as he averaged 1.7 points on 32.8% shooting despite his strong understanding of the triangle offense.
Walton can't bring any of that value in the 2011-2012 season because Coach Mike Brown will have a faster-paced offense. So it's important that Walton's apparent work this offseason on his shot actually translates on the court. After all, Kobe Bryant has often said Walton remains one of the team's most consistent shooters in practice, but those qualities haven't translated to the games.
3. Hustle in practice. Credit Walton for not allowing his frustration over lost playing time last season to affect his overall work ethic. He's often been considered one of the team's hardest workers in practice, and the 2011-2012 season shouldn't be any different. Walton might not bring anything to actual games, but at least he can help sharpen the starters' practice work habits.
4. Keep positive attitude. Even though Walton remains low on the team's pecking order, he's remained a locker-room favorite. Should his role diminsh even more during Brown's tenure, it's critical he still maintains the camraderie around his teammates. Whether he plays or not, the Lakers simply like having him around.
5. Acquire jet-pack fuel. Yeah, this is obivously unrealistic. No matter how you slice it, I don't see how Walton's going to face an elevated role when there's so much frontcourt depth (Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Devin Ebanks) since he provides little athleticism for an offense that will need faster players. Unless Walton's shooting suddenly becomes lights out like Dirk Nowitzki's (it won't), Walton will likely be nothing more than a cheerleader.
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Photo credit: Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press/ October 21, 2010