Nobody is generating more buzz for Spurs fans right now than Lonnie Walker IV. Even LaMarcus Aldridge’s torrid streak from above the arc lately isn’t receiving the same about of hype that generates every time Walker steps foot on the floor.
When it was announced that he would receive the first start of his NBA career in Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, that alone probably brought in a decent amount of viewers who may have otherwise decided to spend their Saturday evening doing something other than watch what would surely be a shellacking at the home of the top team in the league who also happens to boast the reigning MVP. (NFL Wildcard games, anyone?)
To the Spurs credit, they hung in there for a solid 2 1⁄2 quarters before the Bucks’ talent finally took over, and Giannis Antetokounmpo found a rhythm on offense. Walker himself wasn’t a huge part of what allowed the Spurs to hang around as long as they did. His stat line of 8 points on 3-12 shooting, 2 rebounds, 2 steal and an assist doesn’t scream success, but when looking back at his performance, there were still some positives to take away.
First and foremost, he most certainly wasn’t afraid of the moment. He played defense, shot the ball when open, and drove to the basket when he saw a lane. Of course, there were also lessons learned from that last point. Playing against the starters of the best team in the league meant dealing with the second-best rim protector in the league in Brook Lopez, and like several Spurs on the night he was abruptly turned away when he was a little too laissez-faire when going in for what he thought would be easy lay-ups.
Regardless, it’s hard to imagine his move to the starting unit was just a one-time deal. Even though Dejounte Murray was out, it was actually Derrick White who replaced him, while Walker replaced Bryn Forbes in a move many have been clamoring for. He also spoke after the game of working towards finding a rhythm with the starters, so that likely means he’s at least going to get his shot at keeping the job.
He’ll definitely have his work cut out for him with the Spurs facing the toughest January schedule in the league, followed by arguably their most brutal Rodeo Road Trip schedule yet, but if he comes out of it unscathed, still holding onto the job, and most importantly: improved, the Spurs’ future will continue to look bright.