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Category: Luke Walton

Luke Walton says criticism on contract 'obviously bothers me'

Luke Walton

This will either fall on deaf ears or  just create more pitchfork hysteria in this corner of the blogosphere.

But in either case, Luke Walton sounds very aware of the ongoing public criticism regarding the remaining two years and $11.46 million on his contract. Fans  bring up this contract anytime it's mentioned the Lakers are too strapped financially to make significant trades. They count down the days until his contract ends. They openly wonder why Mitch Kupchak signed Walton to a six-year, $30-million contract in 2007 in the first place.

In an interview with Fox Sports Radio (via Sports Radio Interviews, H/T to Pro Basketball Talk and ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky), Walton addressed that issue and explained in great detail why it's a little misguided. 

“It obviously bothers me. I haven’t really noticed it because I kind of stay out of the media during the off-season. But obviously it bothers you as a player. You want to feel your worth. Obviously I’m getting paid a salary that was for a much larger role back when we agreed upon the deal. I was a playmaker, I was playing 30 minutes a game and I was able to do a lot of things for a team. And I had offers from other teams to do the same thing. … For the most part, fans have been great out here. Then, all of the sudden you bring in Pau Gasol and other players of that caliber and my role kind of gets smaller and smaller. I can still play the game … then all of the sudden my back goes bad on me and mentally I’m frustrated. … The role that I was paid that money to do kind of got taken away in a sense.”

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Kevin Love exchanges playful trash talk with Luke Walton

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-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

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

Ron Artest plays pickup basketball at UCLA

Ron Artest

We will have a live chat at 4 p.m. Bring your questions!

--The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn observed Ron Artest play in a recent pickup game at UCLA. 

--The Times' Broderick Turner explains why Artest couldn't legally change his name yet to Metta World Peace. Turner also takes a look at the various public figures who have changed their names.

--Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer is willing to wait for World Peace to come Sept. 16. 

--ESPN The Magazine's Chris Palmer reports that Matt Barnes was one of several NBA players to compete in pickup basketball at Venice Beach this weekend. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy and Brian Kamenetzky talk with TrueHoop's Henry Abbott about Kobe Bryant's career. Don't get upset, Laker fans. Abbott admires Bryant's work ethic too. 

--Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe expresses amusement over Artest trying to change his jersey number. 

--The Orange County Register's Jeff Miller details Jordan Farmar's warm reception by joining Maccabi Tel Aviv. 

--Fox Sports' A.J. Perez argues the various summer-league exhibition games serve as nothing more than a tease. 

--The Memphis Commercial Appeal's Jason Smith notes that Luke Walton was heavily involved in the Tigers' recent practice. 

--Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano breaks down how the Lakers operated last season in the post. 

Tweet of the Day: "Best part of Ron Artest name change is chance we'll hear "Matt Barnes checks in for the Lakers...Peace out." -- jaadande (ESPN.com's J.A. Adande)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day:

"Agreed 1000%. That's what makes Kobe Bryant so very very special. Dude will play through nearly any injury, works constantly at the game, does not let little bs get in his way, and has phenomenal confidence. I admire his work ethic greatly." -- Jennifer King Schlickbernd

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest takes the court before a game against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center last spring. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / April 12, 2011)

Kevin Love exchanges playful trash talk with Luke Walton

Despite his wide smile, laid-back personality and joy in playing beach volleyball, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love stood on the sand ready to deliver verbal jabs at Lakers forward Luke Walton.

Days before Love made his debut with pro beach volleyball player Hans Stolfus on Thursday at the Manhattan Beach Open, Walton predicted to The Times' Melissa Rohlin that Love was "going to struggle." They had played together with Jordan Farmar and Richard Jefferson recently on the NBA-themed beach volleyball team at a popular six-on-six amateur tournament in Manhattan Beach. But Walton argued that would hardly translate into competing against pro volleyball players.

"No disrespect to Kevin; he's a great athlete," Walton stressed. "But those guys play at a high level. Kevin doesn't play much. He can play a little bit, but at that level, he's going to struggle a little bit."

When asked whether Love was the Charles Barkley of beach volleyball, Walton responded, "You can say that. He only played a couple of points on our team. He looks like he can play a little bit, but it's the difference between someone who plays basketball at the rec center and someone who plays in the NBA. He's trying to play professional volleyball against guys that do it for a living."

Walton's prediction proved correct as Love and Stolfus lost in a qualifying match Thursday in straight sets, 21-16, 21-15, to the top-seeded team in the tournament, Sean Scott and John Hyden. Love agreed with the pro volleyball players' sentiments that he looked impressive given the quick turnaround and limited experience but clearly lacked enough development to truly compete. That didn't stop Love from taking off his sunglasses, staring into a video camera and hurling the insults right back at Walton.

Many Lakers fans would compare Love's All-Star credentials with Walton's extremely limited role with the Lakers. Instead, Love jokingly wondered aloud why the Memphis Tigers would hire Walton as an assistant coach during the NBA lockout. 

"They're not going to win any games at Memphis with him coaching the team," Love said in a joking manner. "It was a terrible hire and bad investment in Luke. I'm sure they'll realize when the lockout is still looming, that they're going to want that thing to end so he's out of there when the time comes."

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Luke Walton to be a college coach in Memphis during NBA lockout

Lukewalton Luke Walton is already looking past his playing career.

The Lakers' forward has two more years and $11.5 million on his contract, but he agreed Monday to become an assistant coach with the University of Memphis until the NBA lockout ends.

"Luke is going to bring great excitement and great energy to the Tigers program, and we’re thrilled to have him," University of Memphis Coach Josh Pastner said. "Luke is someone who has not only played for, but also learned from, arguably one of the greatest coaches in basketball history in Phil Jackson. Luke’s also played with and against the best of the best at the highest level of basketball in the NBA."

The hiring is pending approval by the university and the state of Tennessee board of regents. Former NBA player Damon Stoudamire has also joined Pastner's coaching staff.

Walton, 31, has played sparingly for the Lakers the last two years because of recurring back problems and a logjam at small forward. He averaged 1.7 points and nine minutes in 54 games last season.

He has played eight seasons for the Lakers and won two championships.

-- Mike Bresnahan

Photo: Luke Walton handles the ball in a Lakers-Spurs game in April at Staples Center. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

NBA Hall of Fame: Tex Winter attends Hall of Fame press conference

Tex Winter*We will be hosting a live chat at 4:45 p.m. to coincide with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. Tune in to NBA TV at 5 p.m. 

--The Times' Bill Plaschke argues Dennis Rodman shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame.

--NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper and the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson details Tex Winter's surprise appearance at Thursday's news conference showcasing this year's Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductees.

--ESPN.com features Winter's career profile.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding spots Lakers rookie Darius Morris and Luke Walton playing pickup basketball in Manhattan Beach.

--Sports Illustrated's Paul Forrester details how Winter's famed triangle offense continues to disappear in the NBA.

--Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin pokes fun at Ron Artest for talking about accepting a deal with the Cheshire Jets before finalizing the contract. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky argues it's a bad idea for Artest to play with the Cheshire Jets.

--Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Winter wants Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause to shake hands at the induction ceremony. 

--NBAtradetracker.net breaks down how the Lakers secured Magic Johnson in the video below. 

--Lakers Nation's Brian Chaplain suggests Lakers owner Jerry Buss should give his son, Jim Buss, a list of pointers on how to run the team. 

--SB Nation's Mike Prada looks at Winter's role in being a key architect of the triangle offense. 

Tweet of the Day: "“@STEIN_LINE_HQ: Metta World Peace in a British soap opera? That's one possibility Chester Jets to secure rons signature” Oh yea!!!!" -- ronartest (Lakers forward Ron Artest to ESPN.com's Marc Stein)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "I do not really believe it untill I see him playing in Great Britain." -- Martina Kienzle

--Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Tex Winter. Credit: Associated Press

Lakers may be the NBA team that it's easiest to root for, but ...

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It may not always feel this way in Los Angeles -- what with the disappointment about the an early playoff exit in 2011, the hand-wringing over the hiring of Mike Brown and questions about whether the team can return to championship level -- but based on a statistical analysis from The Business Journals website, the Lakers are the NBA team that it's easiest to root for.

Usually you can feel confident that your plans in mid-June will involve watching the Lakers win an NBA title and then attending their championship parade. You know there will always be vibrant and talented personalities on the team leaving you in awe. And you know you can pretty much find anyone on the street to strike up a conversation about the Lakers. 

After all, the team boasts 16 NBA championships, 23 Hall of Famers and an estimated value, according to Forbes, of $643 million. It's a much more pleasant experience following such a team than, say, the Clippers, who, unsurprisingly, have been considered the hardest team to root for, what with Donald Sterling's middling ways, the untimely injuries and an inability to keep talent.

As I've learned in moderating this blog for the last 18 months, however, it doesn't always seem as though Lakers fans are having a joyful time following the team. No doubt fans wake up every day eager to witness and/or talk about another Lakers victory. But even when the Lakers were winning, plenty of the commentary centered on subplots rather than the big picture. Some of these topics included Andrew Bynum's constant injuries, the question of whether Bynum and Pau Gasol can truly coexist, the debate about Kobe Bryant's shot selection, Lamar Odom's previous inconsistency, concerns about why the bench can't secure double-digit victories, and, of course, Luke Walton's contract. No doubt, these story lines contribute to the larger picture in the team's quest for a title. But it's almost a given that the Lakers win a championship -- hence, there's more debate on some of the smaller issues. 

So, yes, it is usually easy to be a Lakers fan even if the team underachieved this season. But that doesn't mean it's any less nerve-wracking. After all, I once asked a few of the Lakers faithful, restless over last year's boring offseason, why they were complaining when their favorite team had just come off an NBA championship run. Their response: That's the art of being a Lakers fan: never feeling happy even when they should. 

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-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Kobe Bryant waves to fans lining Figueroa Street during the Lakers victory parade after winning the 2010 NBA championship. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

NBA mock drafts rarely highlight Lakers' picks

6a00d8341c506253ef015432ed85f6970c-320wiNBA mock drafts are a yearly ritual. But the only buzz you hear surrounding this year's draft are crickets, giving everyone more reason to mock the draft than actually make one (unless we're talking about Jimmer Fredette). 

Talk surrounding the NBA primarily centers on a collective bargaining agreement that expires in nine days. The uncertainty surrounding the 2011-2012 season prompted 41 players to withdraw their names from the draft. And in the case of the Lakers, any chance of the front office "blowing up this team" has a probability of nearly zero considering that their four second-round picks at Nos. 41, 46, 56 and 58 (unless of course the Lakers fall into David Kahn's trap in trading Pau Gasol to Minnesota, but plenty of reports indicate that would require them being held at gunpoint).

The Lakers' past draft history indicates, however, that the players they select at least have some chance to stay on the team's roster. Six of the 13 players the Lakers selected in the second round since 2003 currently played in the NBA last season. Below is a look at how those draft picks fared.

Luke Walton (drafted No. 32 in 2003 from University of Arizona)

The mere mention of his name creates mob-like hysteria for one very simple reason. Walton's 11.4 points per game on 47.4% shooting in the 2006-07 season truly indicated an average player playing with an average team. But it somehow convinced General Manager Mitch Kupchak to sign Walton to a six-year, $30-million contract.

The long-term deal has hurt the Lakers because Walton's extensive injury history kept him sidelined for 17 games in the 2008-09 season and all but 29 games in the 2009-10 season. Even with Walton at full strength, however, his value in understanding the triangle and being a good teammate nowhere near compensated for his lack of athleticism, poor shooting percentage and below-par defense. 

Walton's long-term deal also has hurt the Lakers because it significantly sapped them from making  moves that could've bolstered the roster. Walton's defense may be suspect, but his contract easily swatted down potential moves, such as the Lakers acquiring a backup center to help Pau Gasol absorb Andrew Bynum's injury last season, the team trading away Sasha Vujacic to the New Jersey Nets for Joe Smithand a $4-million cash profit, and the team's tightening finances in the 2010 off-season to the likes of Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake, and Matt Barnes

The damage is far from over, with Walton still with two years remaining on his $11.48-million contract. But lost in this hysteria involves this reality: It's not Walton's fault the Lakers signed him to the deal. Point that finger at the front office. 

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What a Lakers contract with fans might look like

Photo: Jerry West. Credit: Elise Amendola / Associated Press As a way to assuage fan concerns about the state of the franchise, new Golden State Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber took a few concrete steps to show they're serious about winning.

First, much to the frustration of Lakers fans, the Warriors hired Jerry West in what will be an advisory role in the Warriors' management group. As West made clear to reporters, he wants to strike a balance -- not taking complete control of front-office decisions, but not being just a figurehead either. Second, the Warriors hired agent Bob Myers as the general-manager-in-waiting and have gone through an extensive search to replace Coach Keith Smart, including looking at Lakers assistant coaches Brian Shaw and Chuck Person as possibilities. And third, Golden State drafted a contract of promises for season-ticket holders, including a guarantee that the Warriors would make the 2012 playoffs, field at least one player in the 2012 NBA All-Star game, win at least 25 home games and offer a risk-free renewal with a 5%-interest-guarantee option for the 2011-2012 season. 

The Lakers aren't exactly in the same state of rebuilding as the team in the Bay Area, but they've also been going through a coaching search, possibly naming Mike Brown as Phil Jackson's successor. There are also certainly plenty of reasons the Lakers don't feel good about their 2010-2011 performance. Consider Jerry Buss' statement in an interview Tuesday with Michael Eaves and Bonnie-Jill Laflin on Sirius XM satellite radio about the Lakers' 122-86 Game 4 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals: "It was hard to come to a conclusion that any team could ever beat the Lakers. It was very disappointing and humiliating. But when you get slapped around like that, there’s a lot of resolve and teams come back fighting to get back on top."

Clearly, it wouldn't hurt if the Lakers wrote their own contract for next season. Sure, the Lakers aren't quite in the same disarray as the Warriors, who are trying to become a contending playoff team. But there are a few things that could be written in stone to ease the minds of not just season-ticket holders but all Lakers fans. Below the jump are a few of them -- some realistic, some wacky.

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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.” 

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Exit Interviews: Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Luke Walton, Joe Smith, Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter and Trey Johnson

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson

Lakers forward Lamar Odom

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