Luke Walton back on floor for Lakers
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, working his way back to full strength after offseason surgery on his right knee, took the day off from practice Monday after playing on back-to-back nights over the weekend. But the Lakers did get reserve forward Luke Walton back on the floor.
Walton, sidelined for two weeks with a strained right hamstring, participated fully in Monday's workout, reporting no complications.
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"The hamstring felt fine the whole time," Walton said. "We did a lot of running drills and stuff like that. We did some defensive drills, and it didn't flare up at all."
The Lakers play three games this week, including Tuesday night in Anaheim against the Utah Jazz, and Thursday and Friday against the Golden State Warriors. Lakers coach Phil Jackson expressed doubt Walton would suit up against the Jazz, wanting instead to see how the hamstring responds to Monday's work. Walton expects to be available for the games at the end of the week.
Walton expressed frustration at the timing of the hamstring injury but said he was pleased his lower back, which limited him to 29 games during the 2009-2010 season and raised questions about his availability this year, has held up well. He acknowledged efforts to rehabilitate and strengthen his back, painful enough to require surgery last season, may have contributed to his current problem.
"Everything is related," he said. "The back feels great, but the hamstring went on me, so I don't know if it was doing too much back exercises that was putting too much pressure on my hamstring.
"Now the hamstring is starting to feel better again so maybe just finding that good balance between doing my back stuff but not doing too much of it, and doing hamstring work as well."
Walton's regular-season playing time remains an open question. With the Lakers' signing of free agent Matt Barnes this summer, there will be a crowd at small forward when the season opens Oct. 26. Starter Ron Artest averaged nearly 34 minutes last season, and Bryant will frequently move to the frontcourt as well.
Walton, entering his eighth season with the Lakers after being drafted in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft, averaged 2.4 points and 1.4 assists in nearly 9.5 minutes per game a season ago.Brian Kamenetzky is co-author of the Land O'Lakers blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.