Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonnie Walker IV went through an emotional whirlwind on Friday, returning to the place where he started his NBA career for the first time since leaving the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs welcomed Walker with a tribute video, but heart-warming gestures stopped once the ball went up. The 23-year-old guard scored 18 points, going 4-for-9 from downtown in another strong performance for the Lakers this season. The former No. 18 pick also registered two rebounds, two assists and three steals against his former team, helping L.A. get a 105-94 win.
After the game, Walker spoke of his emotions during the night and said his bond to San Antonio remains strong, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Very emotional. I mean, I’m still kind of emotional just being back home. This is pretty much home for me. You know, my mom still lives here and stuff like that. So I’ve done a lot for the community, the community has done a lot for myself. The bond between, not only off the court, with the city of San Antonio, and with the organization, it’s all love. I’m still family.”
Walker found himself in the visitors’ locker room at AT&T Center for the first time ever having spent the first four years of his NBA career with the Spurs. But the guard said the emotional nature of the night didn’t affect his focus, allowing him to put in another strong performance:
“For the most part? Yeah, I think my mindset, as far as this season, is just being consistent, doing what I’m doing, and keeping on my routine. So, I know a lot of people wanted to portray this as a revenge game or anything, but there’s no revenge with this team. There’s nothing but family. I was more so focused on getting the win and continue to stack the days with my teammates.”
Walker added he didn’t plan on leaving the Spurs in the offseason before signing a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Lakers:
“I actually expected to come back, I didn’t know what the price was going to be considered, you know, I didn’t play my best going into the season. I was shooting the ball pretty bad and then you, after All-Star break, it’s kind of when I turned it up. I kind of thought I was going be a Spur for life, to say the least. You know, this is my family, this is why I moved my family over here.”
Walker’s move to L.A. has rejuvenated his career. The fifth-year guard is averaging 17 points and 1.1 steals per game — both career-highs — while shooting 46.8% from the field and 35.8% for 3.
Walkers thinks L.A.’s bright lights ‘allowed him to play his best’
Despite his connection to San Antonio, Walker reiterated that he feels great in L.A., adding he thinks it’s the perfect environment to put his talent and skills on display:
“Since I’ve been here, it’s been nothing but love as far as the organization, teammates, players, fans,” he said.
“I think the bright lights is what’s allowed me to play my best. I love playing in this type of environment, you know, with this type of players and I’m just trying to show my show my talents. I think not too many people really know my game, and it’s finally starting to show.”
Walker will have another chance to face him former team on Saturday when the Lakers take on the Spurs in the second of a back-to-back.
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