2009-10 Player Review: Luke Walton

Darius Soriano —  July 31, 2010

Jan. 13, 2010: Los Angeles Lakers forward Luke Walton during an NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Los Angeles defeated Dallas 100-95.

FB&G continues is player reviews for this past season with Luke Walton.  For a link to Luke’s exit interview, check out Phillip’s post from right after the season concluded.

SEASON IN REVIEW:

By any measure, Luke Walton had a disappointing season.  He suffered through a campaign marred by injuries and – when healthy – inconsistent minutes that saw his effectiveness drop from useful to nearly inconsequential on many nights.  For many fans of Walton’s game (like myself) this was a disconcerting year and I’m sure a very frustrating one for Walton himself.  Every player wants to be on the court and for a player like Luke – one that has basketball in his blood – it must of been tortuous to be relegated to spectator status as often as he was this past season.  And Luke was mostly a spectator this season.  He only played in 29 games and saw the court for an average of 9.4 minutes (the lowest of his career and down from 17.9 just last season) in those games that he did play in.

But by all statistical measures (and I’m sure the injuries played a part in this), Luke really didn’t deserve to play many minutes this past season.  He posted career lows in nearly every statistical category.  And while it’d be easy to equate his statistical lows with his reduced minutes, his stats across the board fell in his per 36 minutes averages as well.  Basically, Luke just wasn’t that effective when he saw the court.  Sure, his innate feel for the game and his passing ability were still on display.  And there were many times throughout the season (especially when Ron or the back up guards struggled to run the offense) that fans called for a return of Walton to help facilitate a better flow to the Triangle.  But, as an individual threat, Walton just wasn’t the same guy.  Gone were the effective post ups while operating from the hub of the Triangle.  And his knack for finding creases in the defense for easy buckets underneath also diminished.  This led to his career low in FG% and in his FT rate, and ultimately made his game even more one dimensional (a passer/set up man) than what it’s been in the past.  In order to be a real threat on the floor, every player has to show enough of a well rounded game where he can be a threat from both an individual standpoint and within the team concept.  This past season, Luke just couldn’t do enough as an individual threat to earn floor time.

However, this isn’t to say that Luke didn’t contribute this past season.  As I mentioned, he still did have his moments as a facilitator of the Lakers’ offense.  There were several games this season when Walton’s passing and knowledge of the Triangle helped stimulate the stagnant sets the Lakers were running.  Also, and maybe even more of a help, were Walton’s contributions on the sideline.  While Luke rehabbed his bad back, he often sat in on the coaches meetings and charted plays during the games.  This allowed him to be a part of the team and aid the coaches by giving them insight on some of things that he was seeing from the sideline.  And while some may scoff at how important this role is, Tex Winter often filled this same role for Phil Jackson and gave his honest opinion on what the Lakers were doing on the court and what could be done to improve.  And given Luke’s familiarity with the Triangle, filling this role really was an aid to the team while also giving Walton a sense of worth with this group (something that is quite familiar to Phil if you’ve read Sacred Hoops).

PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON:

For a guy that only averaged 9 minutes a game, it’s tough to find a stand out performance.  However, if I had to choose one game where I think Luke really made an impact, I would choose game 3 of the Finals against the Celtics.  In this game, Walton played a playoff high 13 minutes and was second on the team (behind Odom) with a +13 on the night.  And while his stat line was modest (2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist), Luke played a very good all around game on both sides of the ball.  In typical fashion he ran the offense flawlessly by moving the ball around the court and consistently hitting the open man helping the Lakers break down the Boston D.  And on the other end of the court he played spirited defense on Paul Pierce by bodying him up and forcing him out of his sweet spots and to where his help was waiting.  Luke may not have been the difference maker in this game (that honor goes to Derek Fisher), but in a crucial contest where the Lakers were looking to take back home court advantage Luke played very well and helped secure a much needed win.  And with Ron Artest struggling mightily in this game (23 minutes, 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, -13 on the night), Luke’s timing in having a good game was also quite important.

NEXT SEASON:

Going into next season, there are more questions than answers about what role Walton will play with the team.  By all accounts, his injured back is a real issue and there may be tough decisions ahead on whether or not Walton can even suit up for the team next season.  But don’t take my word for it, take Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak’s:

It’s not your run of the mill type back problem. We don’t know where it’s going to end up. He’s a gamer and he loves to play. He wants to be a part of the team, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get back on the court. That’s a positive, to have the kind of player that’s motivated to get well. That’s not always the case…The most important thing is that Luke make the correct decision for his life, not for basketball.  The aging process of a healthy athlete is difficult enough as it is. So we counsel Luke, and our trainers do, to try to keep the big picture in the forefront of any decision. But like most young players they want to play. Sometimes they don’t [listen.]

And based off some of the moves that the the Lakers have made this off-season, you can see that contingencies are in place in case Luke can not play.  The Lakers have inked Matt Barnes to be the primary back up to Ron Artest – the role that we’re accustomed to seeing Luke filling.  The team is also in negotiations to bring back Shannon Brown who, while not a SF, is a guy that often plays SG with Kobe sliding up to play small forward.  Lamar Odom also made comments in his exit interview that he’d like to play more SF next season.  And the Lakers drafted Devin Ebanks, a promising prospect that will primarily play SF.  So, realistically, the Lakers may have 5 players capable of playing SF on next season’s roster not counting Walton.  And if all 5 of those players do see minutes at the position (which while not likely, is still possible), that’s quite the log jam of players at a position that Walton sees all of his minutes at.

Whatever next season brings for Luke, I think we can all agree that we wish him the best and hope he has a full recovery.  Yes, his contract is one that is easy to complain about.  And sure, Walton’s limited offensive aresenal (outside of his passing/play making), questionable defense, and injury history make him a whipping boy of sorts for many fans.  However, I’ve always viewed Walton as a player that helps more than he hurts when he’s healthy enough to play.  His feel for the game and his ability to run the Lakers sets give him a value to this team that he likely wouldn’t have with another outfit.  And while that may not appease those that dislike Luke’s game or question his ability as a player, it doesn’t change the fact that Walton is a player that is quite useful when he’s right.  And while I’m not sure we’ll see that player next season, I’m hopeful that he makes a decision that is best for him and his long term health.  If that’s on the court, great.  If it’s not, then I can say that I was a fan of his game and hope things work out for him in whatever is next for him.

Darius Soriano

Posts

40 responses to 2009-10 Player Review: Luke Walton

  1. I’ve always liked Luke as well. I see him as similar to Fisher in that he fits the triangle a lot better than he would most other systems, but so what? He does what he does pretty well, and considering some of the boneheads that were littering the roster a few years ago I really appreciate his smarts as a basketball player.

    Now with all that being said – what an awful contract! Even at his peak he was overpaid, and the length of the deal just makes it worse.

  2. As one of Luke’s fiercest critics, I am happy to say that I, too, wish him good health and success in his next role. As a person, he seems like a good dude, and hardly the kind of person you’d wish bad luck on.

    However, as a basketball player, I think Luke is one of the most overrated players to have ever worn the purple and gold. His contract was one of Kupchak’s worst decisions (probably the worst), and there is simply no way that Luke will ever be a meaningful contributor on this Laker team. With the talent available to Phil Jackson at the SF position (Ron, Barnes, Kobe, Ebanks, and maybe even Lamar) there is no justification for Luke getting any minutes.

    Much is said about Luke’s “playmaking” abilities, but I do not think that it is a coincidence that as the Laker team has gotten better over the years, Luke’s numbers have gotten much worse. Like guys who put up good numbers on the Clippers or Warriors, Luke is only going to look good on bad teams.

    While his contract is my biggest problem with Luke (and for that, I can’t blame him when that was Mitch’s decision), that is not the only concern. I think an objective analysis of Luke’s overall basketball skills would reveal that he has not improved any aspect of his game in a meaningful way since coming into the league.

    As a University of Arizona alumnus, I have watched Luke from his early days in college, so I can attest to his court awareness and passing skills. Those aren’t new, and they aren’t much improved from what he did in college. What I want to know is why, for a guy making the kind of money he makes, hasn’t he become a better shooter, a better ball handler, or a better defender?

    Luke’s injury history is unfortunate, but it does not explain why, this many years into his career, he can’t shoot the ball any better than he did earlier in his career. He still can’t use his left hand, and he still pretty much looks at the ball as he dribbles. These are basic basketball skills that can (and should) be improved during the offseason. As a LONG time Luke observer, I just don’t see the improvement, and that as much as anything else drives my frustration with the guy.

    All that aside, I’d love to see him retire and move on to something else where he can have great success. It really isn’t personal; I just can’t overlook the obvious problems….

  3. Although I don’t quite rise to the level of Funky Chicken’s hatred, I lean towards the side that thinks Luke’s IQ and abilities are overrated even if you take out the box score analysis and look just at his game. Even setting aside his large contract, his game just isn’t as good as it’s rated.

    For someone of Luke’s abilities and supposed high IQ level, I think he commits his fair share of bonehead mistakes. The type of mistakes I would expect from your average player but certainly not from someone of his supposedly higher IQ. He often tries to make the ridiculous difficult pass instead of the simple play. How often have we seen him try that between the legs or behind the back pass? If he cut out all those passes and just went with fundamental ones, I could live with it.

    Also his post play does not come close to taking advantage of his physical advantages. He’s taller and stronger than most of the second unit guys he posts up against. But his only go to move is a turn around fade away and his shot release is low in front of his face.

    He effectively negates all physical advantages. It’s easier for the smaller weaker player to contest or even block that shot. After all these years, why hasn’t he developed an effective drop step or a baby hook. Something where he can lean into his man and brutalize them using his superior strength and length? His turnaround also takes him away from rebounding position.

    It’s these types of things that frustrate me. I can live with his subpar athletic abilities but to me, he hasn’t maximized his strengths, the high IQ.

    His contract is a done deal and there’s nothing to be done about it. But if he had developed more skills and less volatility in his game due to bad fundamentals, then I would be less frustrated with his role.

  4. If Luke was fighting a bad back all last season, his performance makes more sense. I have always been disappointed with his shooting from distance and near the rim. He always seemed to compete with Fisher to see who could miss the most layups. I do enjoy the passes and the way Luke surveys the floor for passing angles. Those passes would have been more open if he was also a threat to score. It is good to see other options at SF for the coming season.

  5. Luke is overpaid, but I’d say most players in the NBA are. His contract is no one’s fault – he got it after having a great year so he felt his market price was that which he asked for (and got) and Mitch saw that he was worth the money (at the time). Luke is one of the few players, when healthy, that contributes key plays in the playoffs. People who hate on him must not have watched the same games I did. He is pretty lax during the season, but come playoff time the dude was all heart and smart. I suffer from lower back disc problems myself, so I understand how frustrating, painful and unpredictable the ailment is. I wish him a full recovery.

  6. Funky Chicken July 31, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Chownoir, I think we are saying exactly the same thing, but you fall into the same habit that so many do by characterizing my observations as “hatred”.

    One of the more frustrating thing about interacting with Laker fans is how criticism of a player or coach is assumed to be hatred or lack of commitment to Lakers.

    Much of what I wrote about Luke mirrors what I have previously written about Lamar. In both cases, you have guys who are routinely described in terms that I think are overly positive. I don’t “hate” either player, but I do feel a sense of exasperation when I watch them play year after year and show virtually no improvement in their basic basketball skills–improvements that other players show, and which would make them much better players.

    At this point in his career, I’m not sure that I would even want Luke at a veteran’s minimum contract, because even that kind of contract would prevent the Lakers from using that roster spot for a less expensive player with more upside (a la Ebanks).

    But to me, this isn’t about his contract. I think any reasonable observer would look at his contract as a mistake–but leaving that aside and just looking at his skills, I think there is ample room for criticism, and you’ve done a good job identifying many of the problems.

  7. Luke can be frustrating to watch, but I always, always appreciate his intent when he makes a play. even if it ends up a turnover/missed shot.

    It’s too bad he wasn’t able to follow up his contract year with another good season. If anybody else can recall, the Lakers were doing pretty well in 06-07 till about Jan/feb (?) and I remember when Luke went down with an injury is when the team really started to tank.

    Definitely pro Luke (his acting sealed it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iDkDsHjyJs) and wish him all the best. If he doesn’t play much/at all because of the back problem, I’m hoping to see more “coach luke”.

  8. Funky Chicken 2, You are right that Luke has not noticeably improved his game during his time here. Although, I think his shot started getting alot more consistant 2-3 years ago, before Artest and before Ariza became a huge part of our team. After his injuries and deduction in playing time, I think he reverted back to his original shooting expectations. So, I thought it would be a noteable mention to point that out about Luke on his player review post.

    Agree?

  9. If you are looking at what Luke has actually produced/contributed I think pretty much everyone can agree his contract is just a big mistake.

    However, going back in time and seeing where Luke and the Lakers were at the time and then factoring in that his career since has basically been hi-jacked by injuries, it is hard to project what might have been had Luke stayed healthy. I’ll give Mitch a mulligan on this one.

  10. Even though I agree with most of the critical points presented above about Luke, I think it is sad how materialist (result-oriented) we have become as fans.

    I remember how excited everyone was when we got Vlad Radmanovic for the MLE few years ago. Everyone thought that his 3-point shooting would bring Lakers level of play up a notch (which in fact was true to a certain extent). What happened with the space Cadet after that?

    In the similar period when Vlad joined the team, Luke got his contract extension. The year before, as pointed out in the post, Luke had a very good season. He started at the 3 and everyone was talking about him as the “glue guy” that Lakers absolutely relied upon. Resigning him was considered a no-brainer back then.

    But now, everyone wants to jump on him. We are blinded by our desire to have the ultimate team and have selective view of things. Luke is a good guy person who wants to be successful in life, like everyone else. In fact, Luke has been a very successful guy by any stretch of imagination. He made the NBA, played rather well for the Lakers and managed to secure a good financial deal for himself. If it happened to any of us we would be proud of it or even brag about it.

    However, now that the guy has gone through the most difficult circumstances you can wish on anybody, injury troubles plus much better players taking his starting job, people are ready to bash on him because he is not as important anymore.

    Not everything can be the way we want and when it is not, we have absolutely no right to blame others for it!

  11. Nice, Darius.

  12. the other Stephen July 31, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Nice, Mamula. Hindsight bias tends to be popular amongst sports fans. But GM’s know what’s up.

  13. Funky Chicken July 31, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Jeremy, I agree that Luke seemed to pick up his game a few years ago, only to be set back when the Lakers got better players and his minutes went down. That’s kind of what I meant when I said he is at best a guy who puts up good numbers on a bad team. His best play came on a bad Laker team.

    Looking to the future, it is hard to see a place for him on this roster. Ron will dominate the SF minutes and, when he sits, Barnes will soak up the majority of bench minutes at that position. Additional SF minutes will be taken by Kobe. On the off chance that the team needs to go further into the bench, an athletic wing defender like Ebanks is likely to get the nod before Luke, so I’m just not sure where he fits in….

    Mamula, I’m not sure if you are new to this blog but “jumping on” Luke is not a new thing, and there were plenty of us who were not excited by the Radmanovic signing. Adding another one-dimensional player to a team that already had Luke and Brian Cook was, to me, another bad Kupchak move back at a time where there weren’t many good Kupchak moves (he has, I should say, totally reversed that trend and made extremely good decisions in the last couple of years…).

  14. FunkyChicken, his best -stats- came when he played on a bad team. He’s a pass-first-second-third-and-fourth first. On a team this loaded, he made the smart choice and gave the ball up to more efficient scorers. Too many of his critics are looking at his statistics and not at his actual level of play when he’s healthy.

  15. Funky Chicken July 31, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Igor, you brought up stats, not me. It is his actual level of play that I am critiquing rather than statistics, and I think others like Chownoir did a good job of specifying where his actual level of play has not improved.

  16. Luke did shoot nearly 40% from the three, in addition to all the playmaking and playing it the right way most of the time.

    Besides, at the time I remember him being arguably the second or third best on our team depending on which(or whether) Lamar showed up.

    From what I’m reading between the lines, Mitch seems fairly convinced that Luke’s career is practically over (must run in the family – though I wouldn’t mind such injury bugs running through my family if that means I get to have NBA level skills) and is trying to see if he can urge Luke into retirement…

    Still, if he can manage to get back and manage to space & pass (sounds like Vlad, those verbs) he could be viable…

  17. Not Charlie Rosen July 31, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Luke, more than anything, is a “non-stats” guy.

    Often, when talking about PER, and trying to figure out why Kobe’s numbers there aren’t as good as say LBJ or Wade or whomever…

    (I swear this will get back to Luke, bear with me)

    …aside from pointing out the obvious (that PER is a measure of stats, and as we’ve seen from LBJ, stats don’t win rings, winners do), one of the things that comes up is that he plays in the triangle offense. And so, his job isn’t to run a play and get a guy a shot, his job is to run the offense, which will ultimately get someone a good shot. (That’s a key part of the triangle: it doesn’t care who gets the shot, it’s just designed to get someone on the floor a _good_ one.) So Kobe gets tons of hockey assists, which don’t get measured in PER or other stats.

    And this is why Luke was–and could, if healthy–be so valuable: he wants to make the hockey pass. He doesn’t want stats for himself, whether it’s points or assists…he wants to execute, and be an extension of the coaching staff, and will sacrifice any notion of what he might personally want to do to accomplish it.

    Kinda the anti-Farmar (and I love Farmar), if you will.

    I do hope he gets healthy and is able to get some burn this season…he’s not like Artest, he doesn’t have that…Artest-ness…he’s not like Barnes, he doesn’t have that length and athleticism (equal shooter, though)…he’s not like Kobe or Shannon (natural wings)…but none of them will be willing to walk the ball up when things are tough in a big game and properly set the strong and weak side spacing before making the entry pass, exactly as you’re supposed to in the triangle. And there are times when that’s the one thing that’s needed.

  18. a nice, thorough list of remaining free agents.

    http://blog.shamsports.com/2010/07/best-of-whats-left.html

  19. I am a big fan of Luke. I hope that he is able to make a full recovery and give the Lakers some quality minutes this year. The deeper the Laker bench can be this year the better it is for our starters in the playoffs. Keeping our key players minutes down will be huge for the playoffs

    Here is an interesting article about Kobe & MJ that I read. For any Kobe fan it is absolutely epic and brings up great points in the debate.

    http://www.midwestsportsfans.com/2010/07/debate-kobe-bryant-v-michael-jordan/

  20. Bynumite,

    That is the greatest article that I have ever read on the MJ vs. Kobe debate. What a great read. I wish there was a way to make everyone read that article.

    I wish I could post something about Luke Walton but I just find it really difficult to find some relevancy. Even healthy, his “game” just does not do it for me. He might be perfect for the triangle, but that does not compensate for his shortcomings in just about every facet of the game. He’s a great guy and teammate and I wish him well with his back, but I will not be disappointed if he decides to retire and take an assistant coaching position or becomes a Laker ambassador or something.

  21. Luke is a cool guy, a guy to hang out with, to party with! Luke is a brand new version of Don Ford; complete with missing Dunk Shots and Bad Passes. Terribly overrated and athletically challenged. A good guy but as a professional basketball player incredibly LUCKY to be given a 30 million dollar contract. No GM on any team would ever give Luke this type of contract! He is very fortunate. To be given 30 million and be completely average and flawed at your job is Awesome! He has done nothing to justify this type of contract. 30 million dollars for passing ability? Even his so-called strength is overrated. He is not Magic with the basketball! He’s been paid very well for his services. Good for him!

  22. That MJ vs. Kobe article was good, if only for this one sentence(loosely paraphrased)

    If MJ and Scottie played 2-2 against any other top two, they’d win 100 out of 100.

    Yeah, it doesn’t take away from the fact that MJ was great, but sometimes I think people forget just what a monster of a player Scottie was, freakishly athletic, long, and committed to defense, not a slouch on offense…

  23. we need those two rookies to the lakers lineup just a simple fact, pay them less money and they are young guys who can help in the long run to 3 peat this season….ebanks,cacarter should be on the roster for the lakers this season…trust me on this mitch…

  24. Gents, Luke Walton had his best year right before hurting his ankle and needing surgery in July of 2008. At his best, he was athletic enough to be a scoring threat, and savy enough to be a good player in the triple post offense. Unfortunately, he lost a fraction of his quickness with the surgery, and he’s just not able to get to his spots and get his shots off as effectively as before. I don’t know if he can re-invent his game (ala Kobe who no longer just relies on athleticism) or if he can get his back healthy, but Luke would have been fine if not for the injuries. Mitch couldn’t have foretold those when he signed him…

  25. Nice write-up, Darius, and outstanding choice of photo displaying the full extent of Luke’s vertical…

    Funky Chicken…you are right on both counts (assessment of Luke’s game and of hypersensitive fans)

  26. When Luke was given the contract he was well worth every dime they were investing. Now that he’s been hurt people seem to forget how many times Luke came in and turned a game around, sparking an out of sinc Lakers team. GO LUKE. Wish you the best.

  27. When Mitch signed Luke to this contract there were bloggers here who thought it was too much, but there were also quite a few who also thought we really needed Luke to keep the team focused on running the triangle and not going off into 1-on-1 plays continually. As mentioned earlier, Luke was the #3 player, behind Kobe and Lamar. This was the general salary given out to #3 players at that time – both Mitch and the rest of the league have since learned this is flawed logic. Actually, the biggest criticism of the contract was not the yearly dollars, but the length.

    There is no question Luke is winding down his career in the NBA at this time, regardless his decision this year. Many NBA teams have a player like this and he is untradeable, unless another key asset is included.

    Ok, we can all agree on this. That should really be then end of our discussion. If we are going to talk about Luke, we should talk about what he did do and what his current injury is doing to his future as a common citizen. The rest of this ‘bagging on him’ stuff just seems cruel.

    Both he and Mitch signed the contract – now live with it. Move on to the next player.

  28. Basketball is a team game, and Luke is one of several Laker players that represent that spirit. Luke and Derek have both represented that spirit for so many years that we tend to forget how importnat it is–and how seldom we see it expressed in other teams.

    Luke has been important and continues to be important because he knows how to play the Laker way. It is not clear that some who criticize Luke recognize what the Laker way is–and has become.

    Before getting dazzled and lost in the meaningless athleticism of individual oriented players, it might be better to remember Luke’s continuing role in creating and maintaing championships.

    Luke might be gone before this season is over, following in the footsteps of his dad. Instead of emphasizing what Luke is not, maybe we should remember that Luke is an important part of what the Lakers have become.

  29. In this post my criticism of Luke had nothing to do with his lack of stats, his contract size or length nor what kind of character he possesses.

    My criticism on him is exclusively regarding how I think his fundamental abilities and high basketball IQ is overrated. Yes he does a lot of high IQ triangle little things I see and appreciate. But I also think he makes a lot of fundamental mistakes in decision making in passes or rotations. Mistakes that would be somewhat tolerable in an average player but not in someone whose biggest asset is supposed to be his basketball IQ.

    As a Laker fan I root for him to succeed and am not looking to tear him down. I think he does contribute in many ways. I’m a huge believer in intangibles and not exclusive stats analysis. But I also think his basketball IQ is not as high as reputed and does not compensate as well as it could for his flaws.

    Now if we want to talk about what a horrible excuse for barbecue he has perpetuated with his restaurants, that’s a whole ‘nother subject, LOL!

  30. Laker Kev, “displaying the full extent of Luke’s vertical…”, funny stuff.

    The hypersensitivity of Laker fans regarding Luke is hardly new, and while it isn’t necessarily unique to Luke, there does seem to be something different about the way Luke is viewed by fans. Something about him causes them to interpret even the most tame and objective criticisms of his game as “hatred” and “bagging on him.”

    Seems odd that while one cannot say that Luke is grossly overpaid for what he does and that he adds very little (which is not the same as “nothing”) to the Laker team, you get nothing but high-fives around here when you say the same thing about a player like Sasha–who seems to be a perennial whipping boy among Laker fans. There seems to be almost unanimous dislike of Sasha, his contract and his value to the Lakers, despite his contract being less than half the cost of Luke’s and the fact that Sasha has contributed just as much to the Lakers’ success in the last 3 years as Luke (which is to say “not much”).

    It is a curious phenomenon, but it has been this way for a long time, and as is the case any time I post anything critical of Lamar Odom, I expect the blowback….

  31. RE Walton: It’s fair to look at his short comings. He’s not athletic. He’s not a great shooter from the outside. And while he tries hard at defense (and is a better team defender in terms of rotations and funneling players to the correct areas on the court) he’s merely adequate to poor on that side of the ball. However, he is plenty good at basketball in general as his handle and passing are above average and whether you call it “IQ” or “feel” for game, he’s better than many, many other players in this regard too. In the end, I think that fans too often look at certain players (ie, the players they like less) and find ways to nit pick their games in a way that makes them seem worse than they are.

    Maybe I’m too optimistic or nice when evaluating players, but I find value in most players’ games and I don’t find it difficult to praise players for the things do well while accepting their limitations. And as a fan that appreciates passing and teamwork, I really like Walton. Especially when he’s on a team that has players that need the ball moved to them (like the post players) in order to be effective. Any wing player can play with Kobe and pass him the ball and watch him go to work. However, not every player can move the ball into the post with the ease that Walton does (Farmar or even Shannon come to mind here) and there’s value in that. And when analyzing a player, there’s few things I value more than a player’s understanding of their own limitations and the strengths of the team and playing accordingly. Walton surely makes mistakes. Every player does. But I think it should be pointed out that Walton’s mistakes are team oriented rather than ones that are made in the pursuit of getting his own stats (e.g. a forced pass to a cutting teammate). Anyways. I’m not out to defend Luke as some sort of otherworldly, special player. He’s a bit player. However, he knows his role and tries to execute that every minute he’s on the floor. That’s more than I can say for a lot of guys in the league and I think it’s no wonder why Phil Jackson really likes the guy.

  32. Funky Chicken,

    I think the universal disdain for Sasha comes from his arrogance and (sadly) his accent. Luke is far more down to earth and, therefore, far more likeable. Sasha almost comes off as a Eastern Europe guard version of (note the irony) Bill Walton, but without the talent and team-spirit. Just a thought.

  33. Luke Walton is the perfect fit off the bench for the offense that the Lakers run.
    In order to not get Kobe upset with them, a lot of Lakers would just pass Kobe the ball and then stand around and watch. Luke did not defer to Kobe and instead he ran the offense. And if that’s so easy to do then why didn’t other players display this ability. That’s why Luke got a contract and is still a Laker, he was not awed by Kobe Bryant.

    Passing into the post is a valuable skill, Luke possessed this ability. Knowledge of the angles and scoring opportunities in the triangle is a skill, Luke has these qualities. Putting team first by going to the coaches to allow Trevor Ariza to start, Luke did this diplomatically in the best interest of the team: So he’s also a good team mate! What more can be asked of a player off the bench, whom we drafted? A player can not give more than they are capable of giving, and Luke will never be athletic nor a good defender, but he is serviceable.

    As someone pointed out earlier in the post, Luke was a guy that could play in close tight games when everything is on the line and he delivers! That too, is a skill!

  34. Darius, I think your comments about Luke are completely reasonable–and pretty uncommon. I think it is pretty rare to find comments about Luke (or probably any Laker player) that don’t skew towards extreme criticism or extreme love, with little in between.

    I completely understand and appreciate the things that Luke does well, but I also see his limitations. I tend to come down on the side of the limitations outweighing the positives, and look at his “running the offense” as more a result of him not really being able to do any one thing particularly well (if he didn’t “run the offense” I’m not sure how he’d see even limited minutes).

    Laker Kev, I had really never thought of the animus directed at Sasha as the result of his accent or arrogance, but you may well be right. I actually like Sasha and think he brings specific skills to the table (probably the Lakers best backcourt defender after Kobe), but can easily see why fans get frustrated with his poor shooting. The accent thing, if that explains even some of the hostility, I really don’t get, but the apparent lack of humility is something that grates on me too.

  35. If one has such an outstanding basketball IQ, then one would certainly take note of one’s lack of athleticism, one’s inability to penetrate and finish, one’s mediocre (at best) jump shot, and one’s lack of speed on either end of the court – and, as a result, conclude that one needs to excell in some other area of the game to justify one’s salary and to earn minutes. The refusal, inability or desire to do so actually refutes the existence of said “basketball IQ”.

  36. Nobody dislikes Walton’s game more than me… but many fans forget before his ankle surgery he was a slightly below average NBA player. The guy could play.

  37. I can’t believe the actual hatred that is expressed against Luke Walton. It sort of reminds me of some of the hatred thrown up against Kobe in years past.

    Luke Walton is not a slug. From long ago I have noticed that Laker bloggers seem to have to have someone on their team to hate upon – Adam Morrison anyone? I really don’t understand this apparent requirement. We have an excellent team – one that pretty much any other franchise would kill to get. Why do we have to find someone to kick? That points toward something wrong with us, not the people we are hating against.

    As I said earlier, Luke is on the downside of his career – perhaps the end – and that is about the entire story. He got here through grit and work, not notoriety and flash. He was a key part of a good college team and he has been a productive player on the Lakers. Now he is injured and has never had the hops of Shannon Brown.

    Yeeeeessssh!

  38. I remember an announcer at a game where Luke had just passed the ball to an open player, that player makes a very high percentage basket. The announcer states that if you are open with a good shot available, and Walton has the ball, you will get it and make an easy basket. He has a bunch of BBQ joints here in Southern California, maybe he should retire this year and enjoy his life, not risk any more serious injury to his back. He is the team player that the Lakers have needed these last few years, for sure.