Two months ago, Luke Walton told Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida that if his back issues flared up again this season, he'd have to consider retiring at season's end. Since then, however, Walton has played relatively consistent minutes for the Cavaliers, and according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, the former Laker believes he can shelve thoughts of retirement for the near future.
Walton, 32, was acquired by the Cavs a year ago today, as part of the trade that sent Ramon Sessions to the Lakers. At the time, Walton was viewed as a salary throw-in, and Lloyd writes that it wouldn't have been surprising if he had drifted into retirement at the end of his current contract. According to Lloyd, even Walton thought that's how things might play out, but now the veteran forward is optimistic about playing for a couple more seasons.
"With the amount of back pain I’ve had the previous four or five years, I was going to give it everything I had this year, and if my back acted up, I was going to retire," Walton said. "Now that my back has been feeling much better, I’m enjoying this.
"I think this core group of people here and this coaching staff are doing some really good things and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of," Walton continued. "I haven’t really gotten that far into it yet, but I’m still focusing on trying to stay healthy and having fun playing this game and helping this team become better. But I love playing with these guys."
Walton, who is earning $6.09MM this season, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. If he were to return to the Cavs next season, it would probably have to be on a minimum-salary contract, which he recognizes, telling Lloyd, "I've made my money." While he hopes to extend his playing career, Walton also has an idea of what he'd like to do after he retires, telling Lloyd that he hopes to remain on an NBA bench in a coaching role.
"The NCAA makes it really challenging. There’s time limits you can work out with players and you’ve got to baby-sit," Walton said of his experience working with the University of Memphis coaching staff during the 2011 lockout. "I like basketball. I don’t want to go class-check and make sure guys are going to class. I want to be 100% basketball. I think the NBA is what I’d try, and if that didn’t work, high school could be fun back home."