Spurs fans dug in their heels over the weekend, trying to convince me on Twitter the team did the right thing moving on from Lonnie Walker. Lonnie returned to San Antonio over the holiday weekend for two games as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lonnie’s weekend stat line: 18.5 points on 54% shooting – including knocking down 7 three-pointers! He is now averaging a career-high 17.1 points per game… proof that an article I wrote is coming true.
In April, I wrote a column for San Antonio Sports Star that predicted Lonnie would average 18-20 points per game the moment he left the Spurs. I claimed “The Spurs did Lonnie Dirty” by failing to give him a consistent role on the team.
The Spurs drafted Walker with the 18th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He was supposed to be the team’s shooting guard of the future. Instead, Coach Pop lost faith in Walker and relied heavily on veterans that were just as inconsistent, like Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli. Some games, Lonnie would play 28 minutes… other games he’d play just 10 to 12 minutes.
The only time Walker had a consistent role was last spring when the Spurs traded Derrick White. Lonnie suddenly played a string of 20-point games and ended the season averaging 12 points per game.
Pop and the front office gave up on Lonnie over the summer, when he was just 23 years old. Lonnie signed a 1-year, $6.5 million contract with the Lakers and is now that team’s starting shooting guard, playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Spurs fans did backflips over the weekend giving me reasons as to why Walker is having a career-year. They kept telling me he’s too inconsistent… that Lonnie wanted out of San Antonio… and that he’s playing better because he has more talented teammates around him.
One of my favorite comments, to paraphrase: The Spurs wanted to move on because of confidence they had in Joshua Primo and the drafting of two rookie guards. Let me remind everyone, that if this is true, this decision was made SEVEN MONTHS after Primo allegedly exposed himself to Dr. Hillary Cauthen for the first time.
Yahoo Sports posted a column Sunday with the headline: Lonnie Walker IV has been worth every penny of his Lakers contract. The article, written by Robert Marvi, discussed Lonnie’s improvement with his outside shooting. He’s shooting 37.2% from behind the arc. Walker said he’s grateful to Lakers head coach Darvin Ham for allowing him to “play through mistakes and fail forward.”
That is a confidence level Lonnie never enjoyed in San Antonio. Instead, Pop gave him the quick hook, and tossed Lonnie into the doghouse, which is weird because Pop now allows a rookie that shoots 16% from the three-point line to continuously shoot brick after brick.
The Spurs failed Lonnie Walker. They wasted a first-round draft pick because of an inability to find him a consistent role. That is Pop’s failure.
Lonnie continues to say the right things – that he misses the city of San Antonio, and he still enjoys contributing to our community. His mom still lives here. Walker says he “Loves Pop.” That’s nice to hear. It’s nice to read.
Lonnie genuinely seems like a good guy. I wish it had worked out for him in San Antonio. We could use a guy that scores 17 points per game. Instead, General Manager Brian Wright decided to hand the keys off to the player *he drafted… in Primo… while knowing the allegations against him.
The Spurs did Lonnie dirty. Now BOTH the 2018 and 2021 first round draft picks are gone. We got nothing for them.
Quit trying to convince me that Lonnie Walker’s game is trash. I nailed my prediction from April. People bashed me back then. They continue to do so now. I guess it’s easier to get mad at me… than to recognize the team’s failures since Tim, Tony and Manu retired. I’m Team Lonnie. Pop and Wright should have been too.
What do you think of Lonnie Walker’s improved play with the Lakers? Let Michael know on Twitter @MikeESPNSA. You can listen to him on “Halftime with Mike Jimenez,” weekdays from Noon to 2 p.m.