The Los Angeles Lakers were able to sign free agent small forward Matt Barnes to quite a good deal Thursday, especially with new news that Luke Walton could miss next season due to a back injury.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak told ESPN Los Angeles that Walton could possibly be out for an entire year if he ends up having back surgery after being limited to just 29 games last season.
"Absolutely. It's a possibility," Kupchak said. "It's not your run of the mill type back problem. We don't know where it's going to end up. He's a gamer and he loves to play. He wants to be a part of the team, and he'll do whatever it takes to get back on the court. That's a positive, to have the kind of player that's motivated to get well. That's not always the case."
Kupchak went on to say that he hopes Walton is able to play, but that Walton makes the right decision.
"The most important thing is that Luke make the correct decision for his life, not for basketball," he said. "The aging process of a healthy athlete is difficult enough as it is. So we counsel Luke, and our trainers do, to try to keep the big picture in the forefront of any decision. But like most young players they want to play. Sometimes they don't [listen.]"
If Walton isn't able to go, though, Kupchak is happy with the surprise signing of Barnes.
"Matt Barnes was not something we planned on weeks ago. Free agency is kind of topsy-turvy for a player sometimes. I'm not quite sure even he knew where he'd end up," Kupchak said. "We felt adding a player like that would give us great insurance at that position. Although he can defend some bigger guards, he's basically a small forward. So we feel fortunate to have added him at the last minute."