LAS VEGAS – These are highly uncertain times for the San Antonio Spurs.
That's why Lonnie Walker IV might be so valuable.
This is a summer where Spurs legend Tony Parker has already left for Charlotte, where four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili is going through what now seems like his annual contemplation of retirement and where 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard's future is most uncertain – both in terms of where he may play next and if his quadriceps injury is healed to the point where he can return to the court.
But Walker is a sure thing, and he's eager to be a part of whatever will be in San Antonio.
“I've worked so hard to get to this moment that I can't not be confident to play against grown men who are older than me,” said Walker, who turned pro after one season with the Miami Hurricanes. “I know day-in and day-out the blood, sweat and tears I put into this game and how great a player I can become.”
He had 14 points in the Spurs' 95-90 win over the Washington Wizards on Sunday – Day 3 of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where there was another 10-game slate as the teams progress toward the start of playoffs this week.
It's hard to imagine there's a player in Las Vegas happier with his current lot in life than Walker.
He just got his first apartment, a major accomplishment for a kid whose upbringing in Reading, Pennsylvania, was often challenging. In an Instagram post after getting his new place in San Antonio, Walker opened up about how hard times were.
“Survival by the fittest was the strategy growing up,” he wrote. “Splitting a cheeseburger for dinner. Chips for breakfast. Not knowing where I will sleep the next day. Living with 10 plus people. Waking up in the middle of the night because your house got shot up. Who would've thought at the age of 19. I'm alive and healthy and just got my first apt. Who would've thought that this kid from Reading would make it out. No one understands my struggle and my pain.”
Such worries are long gone.
He's guaranteed to make $5 million in salary over the next two years, has signed a shoe deal with adidas and more than likely will grab a few more endorsements along the way.
In other words, no more splitting cheeseburgers for him. And he hopes his story motivates anyone it reaches.
SPURS 95, WIZARDS 90: Jaron Blossomgame's follow-up dunk with 9.7 seconds left helped San Antonio, which led by 20 points early, hold off Washington. The Wizards had two shots to tie or take the lead in the final seconds, missing both. Blossomgame led the Spurs (1-1) with 22 points. Devin Robinson scored 24 points, Troy Brown Jr. added 21 and Thomas Bryant scored 20 on 9 for 11 shooting for Washington (0-2).
TIMBERWOLVES 103, RAPTORS 92: Keita Bates-Diop scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Minnesota (1-1). Jonathan Stark and Josh Okogie each scored 16 for the Timberwolves. Jordan Loyd scored 17 for the Raptors (0-2).
HORNETS 94, HEAT 90: Willy Hernangomez and Dwayne Bacon had 22 points each, and second-round pick Devonte Graham made all four free throws in the final 5.2 seconds to help the Hornets hold off the Heat. Graham finished with 12 points and the No. 12 selection Miles Bridges added 14 points for Charlotte (2-0). Daryl Macon had 17 points and Landry Nnoko added 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Heat (0-2). Derrick Jones Jr. left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury.
TRAIL BLAZERS 85, HAWKS 68: Jake Layman scored 23, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, for the Trail Blazers (2-0). Caleb Swanigan had five points and eight rebounds. John Collins had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Hawks (0-2), who were 4 of 28 from 3-point range. No. 5 pick Trae Young was scoreless in nine minutes before leaving the game with a quad contusion.