Luke Walton Discusses Memphis Coaching Position, NBA Lockout, His Contract

Lakers forward Luke Walton--remember him?--has taken an assistant coaching position at the University of Memphis, a position he'll hold until the conclusion of the NBA lockout. He joined Petros and Money to discuss his new job, plus a few other topics, and SB Nation Los Angeles' friends at Sports Radio Interviews managed to transcribe the conversation. Let's hit the highlights.

Walton said the opportunity came about when Memphis' coach, Josh Pastner, called him to ask if he was interested in coaching. Pastner served as an assistant coach to Lute Olson at the University of Arizona when Walton played there as a collegian. "I made some phone calls to some people before I said yes to get their advice on it," Walton said. Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson was among the folks he consulted. Fortunately, Jackson "still has his cell phone number, so we didn't have to go smoke signal or any of that stuff," said Walton.

Walton's chief responsibility at Memphis will be to coach the team's big men. Notably, former Arizona teammate and NBA Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire will specialize instructing Memphis' guards. Lakers fans may remember Stoudamire from his time with the Portland Trail Blazers in the late 1990s and early 2000s; in Stoudemire's playoff starts, Portland had a 4-13 record against L.A.

On the NBA lockout, which began July 1 without an end in sight, Walton offers these discouraging words: "We’re so far apart that it definitely doesn’t look like it’s going to happen to where we start [the season] anywhere on time."

Walton's name comes up frequently in discussions of players whose oversized contracts may have contributed to the dispute between players and owners which led to the lockout. Coming off a season in which he averaged career-highs in minutes (33), points (11.4), rebounds (5), assists (4.3), field-goal shooting (47.4 percent), and three-point shooting (38.7 percent), Walton signed a six-year contract worth $30 million. His role, health, and skill have declined in each subsequent season, and he's played just 756 minutes over the last two seasons, during which time he earned a little over $10 million.

"You want to feel your worth," Walton said, acknowledging that his situation, and the Lakers', have changed since he signed the contract. "Obviously I’m getting paid a salary that was for a much larger role back when we agreed upon the deal." The trade the Lakers made for Pau Gasol contributed to his role "getting smaller and smaller."

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