In news that has been long in the making, ESPN's Marc Stein and Chad Ford, in a report on likely amnesty candidates for every team, have reported that Luke Walton, long beset by various back ailments, is considering retirement due to his doctors recommending that he not continue his basketball career. See for yourself:
The only apparent disclaimer is the possibility that the Lakers could double dip in terms of savings in the form of injury relief should Walton elect to retire, which would then make a subsequent amnesty divorce from the mercurial Metta hard to resist financially. One team insider said that Walton, though just 31, has indeed begun to contemplate retirement because of a debilitating back condition, with Walton himself telling ESPN.com's Andy Katz earlier this summer that he's seen multiple doctors who have advised him to stop playing. So stay tuned.
After a reasonably productive 2006-07 season, Walton earned his much-maligned six year, $30 million dollar contract and various injuries have essentially robbed him of any ability to successfully make a return to that level. To his credit, he has handled his situation with grace and professionalism, and no one can say that he hasn't made an honest effort to do everything he could for the team in his current condition. Coaches and fellow teammates have always praised Walton's basketball IQ, and it appears that he parlayed that into an assistant coach gig with the Memphis Tigers two months ago, for which we only wish Luke the best.
Of course, although the Lakers would welcome the savings they would incur should Walton retire, it would also be beneficial if Walton delayed his retirement so the Lakers could use his contract as trade bait in potential negotiations after the lockout ends. For instance, the suggestion from Hardwood Hype's Emile Avanessian, who graciously wrote an article a few months ago on the possibility of trading for Ramon Sessions, becomes much more of a possibility with Walton's contract now an asset instead of dead weight. As Stein and Ford note, this also may influence the Lakers' use of the amnesty clause that will almost certainly be in the new CBA, as the new targets become Metta World Peace and Steve Blake, whose fates likely depend on who the Lakers acquire in the trade market to be their replacements. If the Lakers consummate the pre-lockout talks for Andre Iguodala, for example, it's a fair guess that MWP will find himself suiting up for another team next season.
In any case, although this is still a report and Walton has not decided on anything, raise a glass for Luke tonight, and give a toast to the latest member of the Laker family who will likely be walking into the sunset. We will keep you abreast of any new developments.
Follow this author on Twitter @brosales12.