The day before Luke Walton made his television debut as an on-air analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet the Los Angeles Lakers' broadcast channel this month Walton ran into a familiar face who was exiting the gym just as he was entering it to work out. Phil Jackson wanted to make sure Walton knew what he was doing. "He pulled me aside and said ‘Let me tell you a story’" Walton told ESPNLosAngeles.com during a recent sit-down interview at the Time Warner Cable studios. Jackson recalled the time during New Jersey Nets training camp prior to the 1978-79 season -- Jackson's 11th in the league -- when the rigors of NBA practices were causing him constant pain and he wondered if he was coming to the end of his career. "The coach kind of told him ‘Look I think it’s time for you take that next step and maybe get into coaching. Your body is not really working for you right now’" Walton said. Rather than hang it up then and there Jackson worked through his troubles and got himself ready to play. Next thing he knew teammate Bob Elliott went out with a season-ending injury in November and Jackson was back in the mix. "He was still in shape and going strong and he said he ended up having a great year and having a blast" Walton said. "So he was kind of telling me that story I think to tell me to stay focused and stay ready just in case because that type of stuff happens all the time in sports." With that message from his old coach in his head and with the memories of a resurgent 2012-13 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers fresh in his mind Walton is not announcing his retirement and turning in his sneakers for a microphone. "I want to play still" said Walton who has already met with the Lakers' D-League affiliate the L.A. D-Fenders to discuss fulfilling a player development role that will allow him to work out with the team along with his TV duties. "I’ve trained all summer as if I was going to get a call. The call never came so I’m going to keep working out ... If nothing happens this year then I’ll probably admit that it’s officially over." Walton 33 played 857 minutes for the Cavs last season which is more than he played in the previous two seasons before that combined. While his numbers weren't gaudy he found a niche playing point forward with the second unit and registered 14 games with five assists or more including a career-high 12 helpers against the New York Knicks last March. While he's now healthy and determined to try for one last shot Walton's chronic back problems in his last couple seasons in L.A. caused him to contemplate life after basketball already. He sat in on a couple broadcasts with ESPN LA 710 radio. He coached at the University of Memphis on his former college teammate Josh Pastner's staff during the lockout ("The NCAA they need a lot of help" said Walton "but I enjoyed the coaching part of it").
Luke Walton tries TV, not conceding retirement
ESPN Los Angeles | Oct 21