When asked about a dip in his three-point shooting percentage last season, the look in the eyes of Lonnie Walker IV was one of assuredness in his stroke as he spoke Wednesday during his introductory news conference with the Lakers.
Walker showed no sign of wavering in confidence when he discussed his 31.4% three-point shooting during the 2021-22 season with the San Antonio Spurs, the lowest of his four-year career.
The Lakers were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA last season, ranking 22nd by shooting 34.7%. So, they identified and then signed Walker as a free agent to help the Lakers improve in that department.
“I mean, last year, you can look at the percentages, but I kid you not: Leave me open, we’re going to see what’s happening. All right,” Walker said.
Walker had joined Troy Brown Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damien Jones and Thomas Bryant at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo to sign their contracts, all new faces — younger and more athletic players than the Lakers signed during last year’s failed season.
The Lakers gave Walker, 23, their largest free-agent contract they had available, the midlevel exception of $6.5 million. He’s a career 34.3% three-point shooter, and he averaged a career-best 12.1 points per game for the Spurs last season.
Walker said he’s “ready to show everyone what I’m about.”
And he’ll do that by working hard, just as he did in San Antonio when his shot betrayed him earlier in the season.
He shot 29.4% from three-point range before the All-Star break and 36.7% after.
Thus, the confidence.
“I just stayed in the gym, it’s that simple,” Walker said. “Everyone has their — not everyone — but you have your ups and your downs. It’s how you bounce back from it. After games, when I had bad games, I was in the gym afterwards. I would go straight to my facility to shoot.
“Before practices, after practices, I stayed with it. I knew sooner or later that one was going to turn and later down the road it finally did.”
Since the last time the Lakers had Bryant as a rookie, when he played in 15 games during the 2017-18 season, he developed his game and had to overcome a serious injury.
He suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament while playing for the Washington Wizards, keeping him out 368 days and limiting him to just 27 games last season.
He says the knee is “not good, great.”
Bryant, 24, has improved his game to the point he has become a reliable “stretch five,” his three-point shooting up to 35% across his first five seasons.
Not bad for a center who has no worries about the ACL injury that sidelined him.
“I knew it was 100% back when I didn’t think about it,” Bryant, who has averaged 10.2 points and 5.3 rebounds over his career, said. “That was the thing. When I stopped trying to think about my knee and worrying about it, and just let the game of basketball take me, I got through that in a couple practices, a couple games, a couple dunks.
“Once you get a couple dunks in and you get knocked down one time, you’ll get the feeling back and that’s when I knew I was 100%.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.