Lonnie Walker IV a difference-maker: Three takeaways from Lakers’ win over Spurs

Lonnie Walker IV received a pass on the wing from Troy Brown Jr. early in the third quarter, took a few dribbles and raised up for a massive dunk, showing another sign of his athleticism that the Lakers have come to love from the swingman.

Before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich spoke about that, saying how Walker had shown what a “great athlete” he was during his four years playing in San Antonio.

“He’s got gifts that a lot of players don’t have in that regard,” said Popovich, who was unable to coach in the Lakers’ 123-92 win because of an illness.

Walker didn’t start much for the Spurs during his time there, appearing in that role in just 56 games and just six times out of the 70 games he played for them last season.

But with the Lakers, Walker had started in all 13 games he has played in this season.

In Popovich’s view, Walker has developed his game well enough to be a starter for the Lakers.

“Learn how to play with teammates, understand what solid meant as far as winning and losing. And that takes a little bit of time. And he’s definitely progressed throughout in that regard,” Popovich said. “He continues on that path. He’s done a really good job. Because he always depended just on that athletic ability, it was so ridiculous compared to other people. But now he understands more the mental side of the game with each year that passes, and you can see that in his play.”

It was Walker’s play in the second quarter that allowed the Lakers to get some separation.

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He drilled a three-pointer and then followed that with a quick burst up the court past all the Spurs defender to finish with a layup that gave the Lakers a 59-43 lead and forced San Antonio to call a timeout with 2:20 left in the second quarter.

Walker finished with 14 points on six-for-12 shooting in 28 minutes.

Seeing Walker’s athletic gifts every day in person has also left an impression on Lakers coach Darvin Ham.

“I always thought he was a phenomenal athlete and just now seeing him up close every day, it’s just like he has a multi-faceted skillset,” Ham said. “He said it to me when we signed him and he stood on the statement every day of wanting to be better and wanting to be elite defensively and us making him more efficient offensively, making smart decisions with the ball in his hands. And he’s done that on both sides. We’re putting him on elite perimeter scorers and he’s holding his own and he’s giving us big plays down the stretch in all parts of the game offensively. So, I’m thrilled for the kid. I think it’s something that’s going to continue.”

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