Possibly out of necessity, the biggest thing Lonnie Walker has learned since being drafted is patience.
The Spurs’ first-round draft pick made his regular-season professional debut on Friday night returned to the court for the first time since tearing his meniscus in the preseason, playing 19 minutes in the Austin Spurs’ loss to the Agua Caliente Clippers.
“You’ve got to stay in your own lane,” Walker said. “Despite the injury, they tell you things to do (to get better) and I see that light at the end of the end of the tunnel and I’m really for my opportunity whenever it is. My mentality has always been the same.”
Walker scored 14 points, dished out two assists and grabbed two rebounds in the loss on Friday night. He didn’t make an appearance in Austin’s second home game of the weekend on Saturday.
Drafted 18th overall out of Miami, Walker joined the San Antonio summer league team before injuring his knee in the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Detroit Pistons in early October.
“It felt great just to touch the floor,” he said. “It wasn’t about scoring or defense, just being able to know I’m able to play is all I wish for. By the grace of God, I’ll stay healthy and develop as a man on and off the court.”
It didn’t take long for the rookie to feel right at him on a professional court as he scored six points in the first quarter. Later in the game, he dove into the first row trying to save a ball from going out of bounds.
“I’m happy for him to be back out on the court,” Austin head coach Blake Ahearn said. “I know he’s worked really hard on the rehab. I know it’s difficult to play a certain amount and then get taken out and sit, but that will keep progressing and he’ll get in a rhythm.”
Walker said just about everything has changed since draft night, and he’s grateful for the family and friends that have been with him ever since.
One of the biggest changes is in his coaching. He’s repeated how excited he was to work with the likes of San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich, and Spurs legends Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
“My first time on the court, I threw up because of Tim,” Walker said. “Working out with Tim and learning the little things in life, it takes you pretty far. It’s a blessing in disguise. Even before the draft, I didn’t expect to go to 18th and the fact that I got here, I’m more than happy. The love and care are like nothing else.”
There isn’t a timeline as to when he could join the Spurs in San Antonio. The Spurs in Austin have two more of home games this week, Thursday at home against the Northern Arizona Suns and Saturday against the Memphis Hustle.
Ahearn wishes he could stay in Austin all season.
“He did a really good job when he got to the paint finding others,” Ahearn said. “There is going to be some growing pains, and we told him that. We’re going to coach him hard even though he played a short amount and we’re going to do everything we can to help him progress.”
Whether it’s in the NBA or the G-League, Walker is just happy to be wearing Silver and Black.
“It’s like a family here,” he said.