Lakers forward Luke Walton resumed basketball activities during Monday’s practice, and expects to go through a full practice on Thursday following the team’s back-to-back games against Houston and the Clippers.
Walton, who aggravated his back during L.A.’s Nov. 13 game in Denver, said that he has been feeling better on a daily basis, today managing to go through shooting drills, a game of 3-on-3 and the like with his teammates.
“It felt great,” he said of his back. “The worst part was the conditioning. My legs, (after) not playing for five or six weeks or (however) long it’s been.”
After a calming down period, Walton has been working extensively with L.A.’s training staff* throughout the last few weeks, focusing primarily on strengthening his core muscles.
*Pictured above with Lakers Athletic Performance Coordinator Alex McKechnie.
“It’s huge because those are all the muscles that protect you from injuries you have in your back,” he said. “We (have done) a lot more core strengthening work and we feel now that we’re at a place where it’s strong enough to play NBA-style games.”
Walton had aggravated his back in a similar fashion this preseason, admitting that he may have come back too quickly (a week and a half, instead of the suggested six weeks) to the point where he re-injured himself. He actually began to feel much better weeks ago, as with the initial injury, but he and the team have been much more conservative this time (24 games and counting) as he built up strength that is hoped to sustain him throughout the season.
In the meantime, it’s been a struggle for the ever-competitive Walton to sit on the sideline and watch, (even from the broadcast booth). He explained that while he observes, he’ll occasionally offer pointers to teammates while constantly evaluating where he may be able to help.
“Knowing the offense, knowing that we haven’t really been moving the ball, releasing pressure and the other little things that makes this offense run,” he said. “I know I can get in there and help the team.”
And in fairness, Walton’s ability to move the basketball is at least one explanation for why L.A.’s bench hasn’t been consistent this season.
In closing, when asked if the recent injury developments with Pau Gasol (strained hamstring) or Ron Artest (concussion) have increased his sense of urgency, Walton shook his head.
He’s been chomping at the bit since Nov. 13.