Lonnie Walker IV was a bit of a surprise hire by the Nets. He had not been rumored as a Brooklyn target and he was signed to a vets minimum deal coming off his best season statistically and solid bench play in the post-season for the Lakers.
The hyperathletic guard averaged 11.9 points for the Lakers on 45/37/85 shooting in 56 games, 32 of them starts. He was slowed by knee tendinitis and his place in the rotation was taken by Austin Reaves who exploded in the second half of the season and wound up with a $54 million contract.
So what drew him to the Nets? As Evan Barnes wrote Friday, he says it was the opportunity to grow with players of a similar age — he’s 24 — and styles.
“[I saw] opportunity, understanding this is a very young core group looking to build, looking to grow, and I fit perfectly with the fellas that’s amongst the team as far as Cam [Johnson] and Mikal Bridges,” Walker told the media in Las Vegas.
“On and off the court, we have very similar outlooks on life and on the court we play very well,” Walker said. “So I think our chemistry and everything as far as growth and becoming something like a very special team is going to be something really nice...
“We all have similar intentions and knowing what we want to be amongst this team, that’s just to be great. Every single day we’re just gonna continue to try and be better than we were yesterday and just stack the days.”
The Nets are indeed young. Of the 14 players currently under contract, only three are 30+. In fact, those three — Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie and Royce O’Neale — just turned 30 since the trade deadline. The 11 others are all between 18 and 28, with the rotation players like Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Nic Claxton, Ben Simmons as well as Dennis Smith Jr., Darius Bazley and Walker all between 24 and 27.
One of Walker’s new teammates, Cam Johnson, talked about his game, the two first crossing paths in college. Johnson at North Carolina, Walker at Miami.
“I’ve seen the strides since his days in San Antonio, since his days in college. He continues to get better,” Johnson said. “He’s another gifted athlete. Really talented scorer. He’s had some moments in his career where he’s put it all together and he’s looked really, really high level.”
As Barnes recounts, Walker returned the compliment.
“I kind of know his game, he knows my game - I think being able to play alongside him now is gonna be a blessing, though,” Walker said. “You know, he’s a terrific player, he can shoot the ball really well. And I’m just another piece to add on to the team.”
Walker also complimented the leadership shown by Johnson and Bridges, how they carry themselves, as Barnes put it. That, plus the opportunity and chemistry, Walker told Chris Carrino drove him to the Nets.
It’s not a stretch to believe that Walker will play a role as instant offense off the bench. The Warriors know his potential. in the Laker playoffs series with Golden State, Walker had two big games, scoring 12 points in Game 2 then in Game 4, he scored all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers overcome a seven-point deficit and win 104–101.
Like Smith, Walker is only signed to a one-year deal, meaning that the Nets will not have his Bird Rights. But what they anticipate having is cap space. So if Smith and Walker expand their games, the Nets are prepared to pay them.
- Lonnie Walker IV foresees growing into role with Nets - Evan Barnes - Newsday
- Lonnie Walker IV opens up on why he signed with Nets as free agent - Brian Lewis - New York Post