Lonnie Walker IV received a pass on the wing from Troy Brown Jr. early in the third quarter, took a few dribbles and raised up for a massive dunk, showing another sign of his athleticism that the Lakers have come to love from the swingman.
Before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich spoke about that, saying how Walker had shown what a “great athlete” he was during his four years playing in San Antonio.
“He’s got gifts that a lot of players don’t have in that regard,” said Popovich, who was unable to coach in the Lakers’ 123-92 win because of an illness.
Walker didn’t start much for the Spurs during his time there, appearing in that role in just 56 games and just six times out of the 70 games he played for them last season.
But with the Lakers, Walker started in all 13 games he played this season.
In Popovich’s view, Walker has developed his game well enough to be a starter for the Lakers.
“Learn how to play with teammates, understand what solid means as far as winning and losing. And that takes a little bit of time. And he’s definitely progressed throughout in that regard,” Popovich said. “He continues on that path. He’s done a really good job. Because he always depended just on that athletic ability, it was so ridiculous compared to other people. But now he understands more the mental side of the game with each year that passes, and you can see that in his play.”
It was Walker’s play in the second quarter that allowed the Lakers to get some separation.
He drilled a three-pointer and then followed that with a quick burst up the court past all the Spurs defenders to finish with a layup that gave the Lakers a 59-43 lead and forced San Antonio to call a timeout with 2:20 left in the second quarter.
Walker finished with 14 points on six-for-12 shooting in 28 minutes.
Seeing Walker’s athletic gifts every day in person has also left an impression on Lakers coach Darvin Ham.
“I always thought he was a phenomenal athlete and just now seeing him up close every day, it’s just like he has a multi-faceted skillset,” Ham said. “He said it to me when we signed him and he stood on the statement every day of wanting to be better and wanting to be elite defensively and us making him more efficient offensively, making smart decisions with the ball in his hands. And he’s done that on both sides. We’re putting him on elite perimeter scorers and he’s holding his own and he’s giving us big plays down the stretch in all parts of the game offensively. So, I’m thrilled for the kid. I think it’s something that’s going to continue.”
Austin Reaves has a strong outing
Austin Reaves was a force for the Lakers during their win over the Spurs on Sunday night at Crypto.com Arena.
He was efficient, going seven for 11 from the field, three for four from three-point range and four for four from the free-throw line in scoring a season-high 21 points in 27:17.
It was just the second time in his career that he scored 20-plus points in a game.
Reaves added three assists, two rebounds and played his usual stellar defense.
“Like I’ve said many times, trying to make the right basketball play,” Reaves said. “Everybody on the team has found me in the right spots. And we’ve been running good stuff and playing good basketball, and I just want to make the right play.”
Thomas Bryant making his mark
In his first two games back, Thomas Bryant has been the first big man off the bench for the Lakers and he has been productive as the backup center to Anthony Davis.
Bryant almost produced a double-double against the Spurs, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
“I feel great,” Bryant said. “I’m just getting my chemistry back with my teammates and just trying to jell back as fast as I can with these guys.”
Bryant went five for five from the field against the Spurs and was four for six in his season debut Friday night against the Detroit Pistons.
He laughed when told he was making it look easy.
“It’s not easy, I can tell you that right now. It’s not easy,” Bryant said. “I just try to stay as consistent as I can out there on the offensive end, just helping my teammates out there, just trying to help these guys gain a little advantage out there. Whether it’s Russ [Westbrook] getting an assist [Anthony Davis] not getting double teamed too much or just filling those holes that I can out there.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.