Embracing his roll off the bench after starting 34 games before the All-Star break, all the while battling foot and ankle injuries, Luke Walton played a key roll off the bench in the playoffs thanks primarily to his basketball IQ and ability to move the basketball.
He averaged 5.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 17.9 minutes per game on 43.6 percent shooting, plus 3.8 points, 2.5 boards and 2.1 assists in 15.8 minutes of postseason action.
Below are highlights of his exit interview:
- Walton pointed out that Adam Morrison should be the one to play the Mark Madsen dance role at the parade.
- “We feel like we can (do it again),” Walton said when asked about his outlook on next season. He noted that the front office is going to have a lot of work to do to keep the team together, and said: “I know they want to.”
- Like Fisher and Gasol, Walton had a positive note about Phil Jackson’s potential return: “I hope he’s coming back. The way he was talking was what he expects for next year, everything with the intention that he’ll be back. Obviously I can’t read into Phil, not many people can. I’m sure he’ll let the people know this summer.”
- On his adversity-filled year: “I think because of all (the adversity) it makes it that much more special. I had surgery in the offseason and when I came back they were already going with Vladi (Vladimir Radmanovic) and Trevor (Ariza) off the bench…” Then Walton hurt his foot, and had to earn back his bench minutes after Radmanovic was traded.
- Walton first developed his knack for making plays by competing with his older brothers as a way to stay on the court (they wouldn’t let him shoot much). He said he’s always enjoyed making plays, and then when it became easy to get 30 in high school and do what it took to get games, but when he got to college with players like Gilbert Arenas and Richard Jefferson (at Arizona), he “Stopped shooting as much and turned more into a facilitator.” Full circle.
- His primary focus in the offseason is putting his body in position not to get hurt, in addition to improving his outside shooting.
- Walton said he hasn’t focused too much on being one of three father-son combinations, and quipped that there will be some pressure on one of his future kids to win one when prompted by a reporter’s facetious question.
- Finally, on the season: “It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. I thought we had an unbelievable team as far as chemistry and I think if we can bring this team back we’ll definitely be competing for a title at least for the next couple of years. It’ll be interesting to see how they work it out … We’ll have to see what other teams are offering (to our free agents).”