Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
An afterthought in a late-season trade has become an important piece of the Cavaliers' puzzle.
When Luke Walton was traded from Los Angeles to Cleveland in March, he was seen as little more than a short-term contract used to keep the Cavs' books in order. As Cleveland opens the 2012-13 season, Walton looks less like an expiring contract and more like a key player.
Walton had been with the Lakers since being drafted in the second round in 2003, but was hampered by back problems and practically unable to play. Walton made just nine appearances for the Lakers in 2011-12 before the trade. But Cavs coach Byron Scott put Walton to work, and Walton responded, averaging 14 minutes per game in 21 games for Cleveland after the trade.
Walton returns for the 2012-13 season, and is again expected to contribute off the bench. Walton spent the offseason strengthening his back through yoga, pilates, and strengthening exercises, according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. He could be an important factor off the Cavs' bench.
"When I'm sitting around and I'm tired, I have to remind myself of how much better I feel and that there's a reason for that," Walton told Lloyd. "So I have to get my butt off the couch and torture myself a little bit for the greater good."