For Luke Walton, a second consecutive title put a bow on an otherwise largely miserable season. Back problems limited him to just 29 regular season games, career lows nearly across the board and a diminished playoff presence. "It was obviously a very frustrating year, with the exception of winning the team championship," conceded Walton.
Luke's keeping hope alive surgery can still be avoided, and plans to work extremely hard with trainers during the offseason to get himself right without the use of a knife. From there, it's about resuming a place in the rotation to do what he does best: Keeping the offensive wheels greased. Walton's smart enough to know the presences of Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom (should he start playing more at the three as desired) present an obvious ceiling for his minutes next season. His days as a central part of the rotation are long done. But he knows his role and would like to keep it, even if for just 10-15 minutes per contest. Health provided, this doesn't strike me as an unreasonable prospect.
Points of emphasis from Walton's interview:
The Walton family history of back problems isn't lingering on Luke's mind. Beyond doctors assuring him it's not hereditary, dwelling strikes him as an exercise in pointless negativity. "If it happens, it happens," explained Walton of recurrent problems in the future. "For me to sit around and think about it all day long is just going to put me in a dark place and get me down."
Being shelved so much did a number on Walton's psyche, with stretches of feeling "really down and out." It became necessary to actively focus on maintaining a positive attitude, and Luke was especially grateful Phil Jackson and the coaching staff allowed him to serve as an assistant coach as sorts to remain connected with the team. "It kind of gave me my sense of self-worth, still, even though I wasn't able to play."
What did Walton learn about coaching? It's a lot harder than he ever imagined, particularly when you take into account the work going behind the scenes. Luke also offered his take on "coaching" Kobe ("You draw up some plays for him and let him do what he does.") and Artest, which involved a lot of encouraging the eccentric forward to keep shooting despite the struggles. As Walton joked, sometimes the advice paid off. Other times, not so much.
If Walton gets a vote, Phil and Derek Fisher will be back next season. In Luke's mind, Fish's intangibles alone make retaining him a no-brainer, ("Even if you weren't gonna ever play him, bring him back just for what he does off the court."), but the guy's tangible postseason production is critical, too. As for PJ, he has an inkling which way the coach is leaning, but opted to leave that info for his coach to reveal.
Walton's videos can be viewed below the jump...