The World of Walton
But while even casual NBA people know about Walton, members of the Cavs coaching staff really know Luke Walton – and vice versa.
The 32-year-old forward came to Cleveland on March 15, part of the Deadline deal that sent Ramon Sessions to the Lakers in exchange for Walton, Jason Kapono and L.A.’s first round pick in 2012.
He’s still trying to fit in with his new teammates – getting minutes for the first time a week ago in Orlando and seeing action in every game since. In last Sunday’s loss to Phoenix, Walton went 3-of-4 from the floor for seven points. In his first week as a Cav, he’s made four of six shots.
Earlier this year, Mychel Thompson – whose father, Mychal, played with Byron Scott on the Lakers – spent 21 games with the Wine and Gold. Coach Scott talked about watching the younger Thompson running around the Forum floor as a toddler. The Cavs coach doesn’t go back that far with Walton, but the two have known each other for an awfully long time.
“I’m sure I met (Byron Scott) when I was younger than I can even remember,” said Walton. “But he and my dad used to do the Byron Scott Fantasy Camp in San Diego every summer when I was in high school and the ‘camp finale’ party was at my dad’s house every year. So Byron Scott and his wife and brother would all come over and have a big bash at my dad’s house for the last night of camp.”
Luke Walton attended University of San Diego High School – since renamed Cathedral Catholic. It’s the same school that produced names like Mark Prior, Barry Zito and Phil Mickelson. And it’s a high school, in Luke Walton’s day, which featured a young assistant coach named Joe Prunty.
At the time, Prunty was coaching the USDHS’s freshman team, but he assisted with the varsity. During his time on the bench, he probably got a good look at a promising local forward named Jamahl Mosley.
Luke Walton didn’t face off against the Cavaliers assistant and future U. of Colorado star, but his brother Nathaniel did.
“Jamahl was one of the best kids out of San Diego,” recalled Walton. “So it was, back then, a pretty big-time game for my brother, and I was obviously excited.”
He has three brothers who also played basketball – famously represented by the four Grateful Dead-like figures tattooed on his right bicep. Luke is the only one to reach the professional level, but all played in college. Nathaniel played for Princeton, Chris for San Diego State and Adam for LSU and Cal Poly Pamona.
Of course, it’s virtually impossible to talk about the younger Walton without discussing his dad – not just one of the game’s greatest big men, but also one of its most colorful characters.
Bill and Luke are the first father and son to win multiple NBA Championships. Dad took the title with the Blazers back in 1977 and with the Celtics in 1986. Luke won back-to-back titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
Growing up as the scion of NBA royalty didn’t really phase Luke as a youngster.
“It’s not until you get older that you realize that the Grateful Dead taking hot tubs in your back yard isn’t an everyday thing,” joked Walton. “Larry Bird coming over in the summer, playing 2-on-2 with your dad and your brother is a pretty cool thing. But at the time, we were just having fun and enjoying it. (We) thought that’s what everyone did.”
After a memorable childhood and successful run at USDHS, Walton went on to star for Lute Olson at the U. of Arizona – earning All-American honors and leading the Wildcats to the Final Four in 2001.
He was drafted by the Lakers in 2003, one spot behind future teammate Jason Kapono by the Cavaliers. Walton played in 484 games with the Lakers, starting 138.
At this year’s trade deadline, he got a phonecall he thought was the team’s trainer. Instead, it was Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, calling to tell him he’d been traded to the Cavaliers. At first, Walton thought he was joking, but soon realized otherwise.
Only four games in with his new squad – despite an almost life-long familiarity with the coaching staff – Walton admits that he sometimes lapses back into the Triangle Offense.
“Yeah, I’ll run to the pinch-post and flash to the high-post, or when I see somebody getting denied, they yell at me to space out to the corner,” laughed Luke. “Yeah, it happens.”
Once he gets the Triangle out of his system – and with just 18 games remaining in the regular season -- Walton looks forward to moving forward with his new Cavalier teammates.
“I’m trying to learn the sets, playing with guys I’ve never played with before,” concluded Walton. “Basketball is such a rhythm game and it’s about feel. With people in L.A., I didn’t even have to look, I’d just throw the ball and someone would be there. So now it’s just trying to build that bond with these guys and getting back on the same page as everyone.”