After weeks of rehabbing from a meniscus injury, San Antonio Spurs first round pick Lonnie Walker IV has been working toward his debut in Austin.
Anticipation surrounding the return of rookie Lonnie Walker IV to the Spurs lineup is building as the 19-year-old nears the start of his NBA career. As the highest-drafted player selected by the organization since Tim Duncan with the first pick in 1997, there’s pressure on Lonnie to live up to the hype and embody the player that the team trusts he can become.
Physically and mentally, Walker is a gifted individual whose quirky individuality and natural skill stand out as distinctive for a player representing the San Antonio Spurs. He took the first step toward realizing his potential by suiting up for the Austin Spurs last week.
During his G League debut against the Agua Caliente Clippers on Nov. 30, Walker posted 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting in just 19 minutes of play. Straight out of the gates, he played a feisty and inspired game by pulling up on jumpers with confidence while involving teammates and playing hard defense.
Walker will have a real opportunity to prove himself under head coach Gregg Popovich once he pops in the G League and earns Pop’s seal of approval. In the second part of a home-and-home series with the NAZ Suns, Walker will have a chance to improve upon his first performance by taking smarter shots and shaking off the rust of his injury.
His most recent performance wasn’t particularly efficient, but the rookie got the chance to get his feet wet in a 113-105 victory over the Northern Arizona Suns on Tuesday.
He finished the contest with 10 points in an ice cold 4-for-12 shooting night while adding two rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal. In just under two months, Walker underwent surgery and worked himself into near-playing shape while getting acclimated to his new life as an NBA player, so a mediocre statline is more than acceptable at this stage.
“The love and the care that they have for one another is not like any other NBA team in my opinion,” Walker said. “This team is like a family, and I love it here.”
There’s really no telling how Walker will impact the team this year, especially considering the issues they’re facing on the defensive end of the floor. Placing too much responsibility on a rookie can be overwhelming and may stunt long-term development, but slowly integrating him to the lineup and allowing him to be himself should be in the cards for San Antonio.
If he can recognize the Spurs weaknesses and find ways to lock down the perimeter, Walker can help turn around what’s begun as a very difficult season for the silver and black.