For Luke Walton, Father's Day Is Here
Thursday, June 12, 2008
LOS ANGELES, June 11 -- Before the NBA Finals began last week, Los Angeles Lakers reserve Luke Walton got a message on his answering machine that said, "This is Paul Pierce, you're a bum, all your teammates are bums."
Walton also received messages this postseason from "Carmelo Anthony" before the Lakers played Denver in the first round and "Carlos Boozer" before they played Utah in the second. Why is Walton so popular? The calls are actually from his father, Bill, the Hall of Fame center and ESPN analyst who has been trying to motivate Luke with imitations that sound -- using Bill Walton's classic description -- horrible.
"It's his voice. He doesn't change his voice at all," Luke Walton said with a laugh.
Why didn't Luke Walton get a phone call from Tim Duncan this postseason? "He said Tim Duncan doesn't talk trash," Luke Walton said.
The elder Walton showed up for Game 3 of the NBA Finals -- the first game he had attended since being sidelined for the past 15 weeks with bulging disks, pinched nerves and damaged ligaments in his lower back and hip. Bill Walton played his last two seasons with the Boston Celtics -- winning a championship in 1986 -- before retiring in 1987. He picked the Celtics to win with his head, but he is pulling for his son. "There is nothing that could make me happier than to see Luke be a champion," Bill Walton said.
Luke Walton wants a ring for several reasons, but explained that winning a championship would make it "a lot easier to have dinner with him. He already talks trash about how he has got NCAA championships and I don't have any. It would be sweet."
Luke Walton said he used to try on his father's championship rings whenever he visited his grandparents. Since Bill left his rings with his parents, would Luke do the same?
"I can't trust a Laker ring in that house," Luke Walton said. "That might mistakenly get thrown away."
Most of the Lakers and Celtics hadn't heard about former NBA referee Tim Donaghy's allegations that other referees had attempted to alter the outcome of playoff games and made calls based on how they would impact television ratings until they arrived at Staples Center on Tuesday.
A day later, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers and Lakers Coach Phil Jackson made pointed comments about Donaghy's allegations. "I have zero concern about the integrity," Rivers said. "The whole Donaghy thing makes me sick, if you want me to be honest. Paul Pierce got injured and we questioned him, but we believe Donaghy? When you think of the logic of that [garbage]. Our league is a great league and that stuff bothers me a great deal."
Jackson said referees have "an impossible job" but thought the NBA should look into how officiating is governed and establish an entity to create some separation between the league and officials. "It seems to be more consistent with what we want to have happen to keep it from being influenced," Jackson said, adding that "once the league [takes] it out of their own hands, it would give them less of an oversight or overwhelming presence over the top. They wouldn't be so defensive about our refereeing all of the time. Our refereeing has kind of become a sacred cow."