There’s no question that Lonnie Walker IV has been one of the few bright spots for the Lakers to start the season. He’s fit perfectly in his new role alongside the superstars and has frankly outplayed his contract as he’s become the team’s best role player in the first 13 games. The former San Antonio Spur adds another dimension to the Lakers’ offense with his perimeter shooting, ability to create his own shots, and get out in transition.
One of the reasons why Walker, who is averaging a career-high 16.5 points in 35.7% 3-point shooting, has blossomed in his new role is because he’s constantly inspired and encouraged by his teammates, particularly his fellow backcourt mate Russell Westbrook. In a one-on-one interview with our very own Anthony Irwin, the shooting guard opened up about how Westbrook has been one of the biggest keys to his performance and confidence on the court this season.
According to Walker — who appeared on the podcast to represent the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and their 450 Gives program — it’s Westbrook who continuously motivates him to shoot instead of passing up great looks (which is very on-brand) and stay aggressive on offense.
“There was a time when I had a midrange pull up and I passed it and Russ cursed me out after, during the timeout call like ‘Yo, you don’t do that. I pass the ball you shoot okay? Stop passing the ball’ I was like dang, okay. That was something that made me want to be more aggressive you know, having players that are allowing you to play with your instincts and strengths It’s a blessing, but to have future Hall-of-Famers also saying you got what it takes to do this then it for sure takes it up to a whole another notch.”
Say what you want about Russell Westbrook, but it’s nice to see the nine-time All-Star contribute in intangible ways that go beyond the box score. Since accepting and sliding into his new sixth-man role, Westbrook has played his best basketball as a Laker. He runs the second unit to provide much-needed playmaking and scoring — especially when LeBron James takes a breather. He speeds up the pace and plays decent defense when he can, and more importantly has set an example to his teammates. Those essential sacrifices are vital for overall team success.
Take it from Walker, who said that Westbrook buying into his new role has taught him a thing or two about the importance of doing everything they can (even to the expense of their reputation) to win.
“It just shows what type of person and player Russ is. He’s not an egoistic guy. The world doesn’t revolve around him. He’s one of the most genuine down-to-earth people I’ve ever met in my life. To see the amount of harshness that he’s going through as far as social media this last year and even this year, he comes to practice with great energy. He comes to practice ready to work and it just goes to show just his character and what type of player he really is. That’s something that I also learned within myself that I’m here to do whatever it takes for my team to win and Russ was one of the first leaders to show that. You know, that’s a future Hall-of-Famer you know, you would be confused as to why he’s going onto the bench or why he’s saying yes I’ll be a six-man and for him to take that role and elevate it to a whole other level and create a whole new identity speaks incredible volume and for us to see that, it’s like dang alright, we gotta do what it takes. It’s not all about doing this and that, we all as a collective, we all got to take what it is to win. You know, we all gotta sacrifice whether it’s diving on the ball or doing the dirty work because our leaders are doing it.”
Our @AnthonyIrwinLA spoke to @lonniewalker_4 about Russell Westbrook coming off the bench and what it's been like watching that transition.— Silver Screen and Roll (@LakersSBN) November 18, 2022
Full show: https://t.co/mr32KXFyQn pic.twitter.com/2NJwg9ncc3
Although Westbrook’s words and actions haven’t translated to a ton of wins, it has still set an example and molded a team culture for a Lakers team that desperately needs to bounce back from their poor start and get off the ground. It also depicts how impactful Westbrook’s new role has been outside of the stat sheet Even though Brodie’s time in Los Angeles hasn’t been the perfect storybook in the making, at the very least he’s uplifted and got the best out of some of his teammates including Walker, who continues to be a bright light for the purple and gold this season.