What’s fueling Lonnie Walker IV’s rise with the Los Angeles Lakers

What’s fueling Lonnie Walker IV’s rise with the Los Angeles Lakers

EVERY MORNING, BEFORE Lonnie Walker IV informs one of the biggest pressure cookers in all of professional sports: a Los Angeles Lakers team determined to atone for the disaster of last season and save the twilight of lebron james‘ race — meditate with a mantra.

“Dominate the day.”

There’s a shrine-like appeal to the 23-year-old’s upscale Beverly Hills home. It’s surrounded by lush, green gardens with a stunning view from its backyard pool that spans pretty much all of LA

But he begins his days by looking inward.

He gets out of bed and takes refuge in a corner of his second-floor bedroom, where he spends 20 minutes resetting his operating system. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds and out your mouth for four seconds.

In and out

Dominate the day.

In and out

Dominate the day.

The message, says Walker, imbues confidence and urgency. “It’s just a time to unplug and really talk to your subconscious mind,” says the reserved ranger. “I’m just trying to reconnect my body and my mind.”

It’s working Walker is putting up career-best numbers in scoring (16.9 ppg), field goal percentage (47.1), free throw percentage (83.7) and defensive marks (0.9 steals; 0.5 caps per game).

Back in the corner of his room, he sits with his back against the wall, his legs stretched out in front of him and a window behind him pouring light into the room. He takes a blackboard from the armchair he is resting on and places it in front of him. The board is littered with dry-erase scribbles in blue, red, and green ink documenting his short-term and long-term goals. He is five years into his NBA career, the first four of which were spent under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs after being selected No. 18 in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft.

Scan for a long-term goal. Most Improved Player.

A short-term goal, he says, is something he wants to achieve in a matter of months. Conference Player of the Week. starter

An even shorter goal? Looking to have a strong performance in his first game in San Antonio (Friday, 8 p.m. ET) since signing a one-year, $6.5 million deal with LA in the offseason.

“There’s a book I was reading,” Walker says. “He said that every day you have an opportunity to improve one percent. So let’s improve one percent. That means I always have a fascination with what I can become. What man can I really become as an individual in this life? “

THE IMMASSED DOUBLE with his meditation on game days.

He resumed practice years ago in high school working with Dr. Rick Neff, a sports psychologist who now directs the athletic programs at Villanova University. Walker was a basketball phenom in Reading, Pennsylvania, a small town an hour’s drive northwest of Philadelphia, and Dr. Neff helped him gain attention.

“He was one of the greatest people to come into my life,” Walker says. “To really understand the power of the subconscious mind and understand how strong it is and what you can do with it.”

Walker adds an extra 15-minute session in the arena to refocus before the start that he completes in any private space he can find. It’s a window of time after his skills work on the court and before coach Darvin Ham addresses the team.

At Arena, his refuge is an auxiliary locker room down the hall from the Lakers’ luxury digs. The gray-walled room is unadorned and the music playing from the loudspeaker above the track is muted. It’s usually used by visiting NHL coaches, but it’s left empty on NBA nights, so Walker parks himself in one of the wooden cubicles near the right side of the entrance and closes his eyes.

“I really feel like that’s one of the main reasons why I’m playing so well,” he says. “It’s genuinely transformed my state of mind and my level of maturity to go to that rink. Once I’m done and I leave and walk into the locker room, I feel like a different person. That’s not Lonnie anymore, that’s ,’ It’s time to play.’ I don’t have friends on that other team.”

It is a mental discipline made more powerful thanks to a great physical capacity.

“From day one, he was a great athlete. He has gifts that a lot of players don’t have in that regard,” Popovich said before the Spurs played the Lakers on Sunday, the first of three games the teams will play. in a period of seven days. “He always relied on just that athletic ability, it was so ridiculous compared to other people. But now he understands the mental side of the game more with each passing year, and you can see that in his game.”

His play has been consistent with his routines, scoring in double digits in 11 of the 14 games he’s started, including three of those with 25 or more points. In 208 games with the Spurs, he reached the 25-point plateau just five times.

“I think his confidence is through the roof. The kid is phenomenal,” Ham said. “I just have a huge amount of trust and belief in him.”

THIS BELIEF, I same brand of perimeter defense and three-level scoring on offense, means his name could be stitched onto the back of a Laker jersey next season, and beyond.

LA only has roughly $92 million in committed contracts for next season, when the salary cap is projected to be $134 million, plenty of room to keep Walker if he continues to help the Lakers win: He averaged 18.7 points with 52.5% shots (46.7). % of 3) during LA’s recent three-game winning streak.

“I’m here for a year,” Walker says. “I’d love to be here as long as I can. So what do I have to do to get to this point? Being disciplined, being committed and just piling on the days and being the best I can be is something that’s going to get me there.” .

Last season, Malik Monk he played a similar role for the Lakers on a similar contract, but left to sign a two-year, $19.4 million deal with the Lakers. Sacramento Kings with LA unable to offer more than the mid-level exception, which eventually went to Walker.

“He’s filled that void of being another guy we can lean on to score the basketball.” Anthony Davis he told ESPN. “You score in groups and try to learn and read the game constantly as the season progresses.”

Before the Lakers embark on their private charter for their three-game Thanksgiving road trip with a game in Phoenix and then a back-to-back in San Antonio, Walker sat at home, preparing -se in his unique way for the six-day trip. . He picks up the phone and walks over to the blackboard in his bedroom. He takes a picture of the goals he has written for himself, a reminder of where he is and where he wants to be.

As the team bounced from their temporary home in Arizona to their hotel in Texas, Walker finds a pad of paper and a pen on their bedroom desks, opens the photo of their whiteboard in Beverly Hills and recreates the list.

Long term goal.

Short term goal.

Then, back to the wall, legs outstretched, eyes closed.

“Once I’m done writing everything I have from that board on paper, I put it in my pocket,” Walker says. “They touch me, the words, everything goes through my body, and then I meditate.”

Another chance to be 1% better.

Breathe through your nose for four seconds. Breathe through his mouth for four seconds. In and out In and out In and out

Dominate the day.

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