When asked about a dip in his three-point shooting rate last season, the look in his eyes was Lonnie Walker IV was one of certainty in his stroke when he spoke at his introductory press conference on Wednesday with the Lakers†
Walker showed no sign of wavering in confidence as he discussed his 31.4% three-point shot during the 2021-22 season with the San Antonio Spurs, the lowest in his four-year career.
The Lakers were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA last season, finishing 22nd by shooting 34.7%. So they identified Walker and then signed them as a free agent to help the Lakers improve in that division.
“I mean, last year you can look at the percentages, but I’m not kidding, leave me open, we’ll see what happens. Okay,” Walker said.
Walker had joined Troy Brown Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damien Jones and… Thomas Bryant at the Lakers facility in El Segundo to sign their contracts, all new faces – younger and more athletic players than the Lakers signed during last year’s failed season.
The Lakers gave Walker, 23, their largest free-agent contract they had available, the average exception of $6.5 million. He is a 34.3% career three-point shooter and he averaged a career-best 12.1 points per game for the Spurs last season.
Walker said he is “ready to show everyone what I stand for”.
And he will do that by working hard, just like he did in San Antonio when his shot betrayed him earlier in the season.
He shot 29.4% of the three-point range before the All-Star break and 36.7% after it.
So the trust.
“I just stayed in the gym, it’s that simple,” Walker said. “Everyone has their – not everyone – but you have your ups and your downs. It’s how you get back on top. After games, if I had bad games, I’d be at the gym afterwards. I’d go straight to my facility to to shoot.
“Before the training sessions, after the training sessions, I stayed with it. I knew sooner or later there was going to be a bend and later down the road it finally happened.”
Since the Lakers last had Bryant as a rookie, when he appeared in 15 games in the 2017-18 season, he developed his game and had to overcome a serious injury.
He sustained a torn left anterior cruciate ligament while playing for the Washington Wizards, which left him out of action for 368 days and limited him to just 27 games last season.
He says the knee is “not good, great.”
Bryant, 24, has improved his game to the point of becoming a reliable “stretch five”, his three-point shot to 35% in his first five seasons.
Not bad for a center not worried about the ACL injury that sidelined him.
“I knew it was 100% back when I didn’t think about it,” said Bryant, who averaged 10.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in his career. “That’s what it was about. When I stopped trying to think about my knee and worry about it, and just get carried away with the basketball game, I got through that in a few practices, a few games, a few dunks.
“Once you get a few dunks and you get knocked down once, you get the feeling back and that’s when I knew I was 100%.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times†