Last week, NBA veterans like Ricky Davis and Quincy Douby joined the ranks of the NBA D-League in hopes of keeping their dreams of returning to The Association alive. On Monday, two-time NBA champion Luke Walton did something similar. That said, he won't exactly be hitting the hardwood like the former two.
After spending last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers (and much of the previous decade with the Los Angeles Lakers), a forthcoming NBA gig for this year never came Walton's way. Though the door was open for him to return to Cleveland, the forward had his eyes set on venturing back to Los Angeles. That said, with more of a youth movement going on with the Lakers this summer, a spot for the 33 year old was tough to find.
Still, Walton has reportedly been working out constantly with the goal of staying in shape. Perhaps the truth of the matter remains, all he really is is an injury or two (to another player) away from sneaking onto Los Angeles' roster.
As he keeps that hope alive, the forward has found multiple ways to stay closer to the team in the meantime. In addition to joining Time Warner Cable as an on-air analyst during Laker games, Walton will now join the NBA D-League affiliated D-Fenders as a player development coach.
Such a union will allow Walton not only to stay in the Lakers' good graces, but also their minds as he works with a subset of the organization's staff. There's also talk of the veteran working out with the minor league squad as a way of staying NBA ready, though he won't play in actual games.
In the case of Davis, Douby, and others, using the D-League as one's path back to the NBA is becoming a method that's used quite often. Even so, Walton's choice allows him to step one foot into the door of an interesting post-playing career, while at the same time, stay prepared should one last opportunity come his way.
Whereas veterans playing in the D-League sometimes take away from the actual development of some of the league's most promising young guns, Walton's impact stands to arguably be an even more positive one. In addition to being a multi-time NBA champ, the Arizona alum has over a decade of experience and is the son of an NBA legend. There's no doubt he can offer sound advice and steady guidance. He's sure to not overshadow the up and coming talent while doing so, either.
This isn't the first time Walton has opted to use coaching to bridge the gap between playing stints. He was an assistant coach at University of Memphis during the 2011 NBA lockout.