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

EVERY MORNING, BEFORE Lonnie Walker IV reports to one of the greatest pressure cookers in all of professional sports – a Los Angeles Lakers team determined to atone for last season’s disaster and save the twilight of LeBron James’ career – he ponders with a mantra.

“Dominate the day.

There’s a sanctuary-like appeal to the 23-year-old’s home nestled in an elevated Beverly Hills neighborhood. It is surrounded by lush, verdant gardens with stunning views from its rear pool that spans virtually all of LA

But he starts his days looking within.

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. Inhale through your nose for four seconds and exhale through your mouth for four seconds.

Inside and outside.

Dominate the day.

Inside and outside.

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,” the reserved shooter says. “I’m just trying to reconnect my body and my mind.”

That works. Walker is posting career-best numbers in scoring (16.9 ppg), field goal percentage (47.1), free throw percentage (83.7) and defensive ratings (0 .9 interceptions; 0.5 blocks per game).

Back in the corner of his room, he’s sitting with his back against the wall, his legs stretched out in front of him with a window behind him that throws light into the room. He picks up a whiteboard from the chair he’s resting on and places it in front of him. The board is filled with dry-erase scribbles in blue, red, and green ink that document her short- and long-term goals. He has a five-year 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.

It scans for a long-term goal. Most Improved Player.

A short-term goal, he says, is something he wants to accomplish in a few months. Conference Player of the Week. Hall.

An even shorter goal? Wanting to have a strong showing in his first game in San Antonio (Friday, 8 p.m. ET) since signing a one-year, $6.5 million contract with Los Angeles in the offseason.

“There’s a book I was reading,” Walker says. “He said that every day you have the chance to be one percent better. So let’s get one percent better. So that means I still have a fascination with what I can become. What man can I really achieve as an individual in this life?”

HE DOUBLE DIPS with his meditation on game days.

He picked up the practice years ago in high school working with Dr. Rick Neff, a sports psychologist who now directs 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 bring him to the limelight.

“He was one of the greatest people to come into my life,” Walker said. “In terms of really understanding the power of the subconscious mind and understanding its strength and the abilities you can do with it.”

Walker adds an additional 15-minute session in the arena to refocus before the whistleblowing he completes in any private space he can find. It’s a window of time after his work on the pitch and before coach Darvin Ham addresses the squad.

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

“I really feel like that’s one of the main reasons why I play so well,” he said. “It really transformed my mental state and my level of maturity coming onto this pitch. Once I’m done and I leave and walk into the locker room, I feel like a different person. It doesn’t is more Lonnie, it’s, ‘It’s time to play.’ I don’t have any friends in that other team.”

It is a mental discipline made more powerful by tremendous physical ability.

“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 face the Lakers on Sunday, the first of three games the teams will compete. within seven days. “He always depended on just that athletic ability, it was so ridiculous compared to others. But now he understands the mental side of the game more with each passing year, and you can see that in his game.”

His game was consistent like his routines, scoring in double figures in 11 of the 14 games he started in, three of them 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 at an all-time high. The kid is phenomenal,” Ham said. “I just have tremendous trust and belief in him.”

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

LA only has about $92 million in committed contracts for next season, while the salary cap is expected to be $134 million, plenty of room to keep Walker if he continues to help the Lakers win – He averaged 18.7 points on 52.5 percent shooting (46.7 percent from 3) during Los Angeles’ recent three-game winning streak.

“I’m here for a year,” Walker said. “I would like to be here as long as possible. So what do I need to do to get there? Being disciplined, committed and just piling on the days and being the best I can be is something that will get me there.”

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

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

Before the Lakers boarded their private charter for their three-game road trip that ends Thanksgiving with a game in Phoenix and then a back-to-back game in San Antonio, Walker sat at home, preparing in his own way. for the six-day trip. . He grabs his phone and walks over to the whiteboard in his bedroom. He takes a picture of the goals he has set for himself, a reminder of where he is and where he wants to be.

As the team bounces 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 from their whiteboard in Beverly Hills, and recreates the list.

Long term goal.

Short-term goal.

Then it’s back to the wall, legs stretched out, eyes closed.

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

Another chance to be 1% better.

Inhale through your nose for four seconds. Exhale through your mouth for four seconds. Inside and outside. Inside and outside. Inside and outside.

Dominate the day.


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