INDEPENDENCE: Byron Scott didn't know until nine minutes into the game whether or not he would use Luke Walton. Now that he's turned to the veteran, he's not turning back.
Scott likes the leadership and passing ability Walton brings to the second unit. He likes how Walton doesn't need the ball in his hands to make things happen, something that really isn't true of Samardo Samuels. So for now, Walton is in the Cavs' rotation and Samuels is out.
It's quite a contrast to just a few months ago, when Walton's bad back made him believe this could be his final year in the league. He is in the last year of a contract that will pay him $6 million this season, and Walton thought as recently as the spring that his career could be about over.
"I had already told myself if my back continues to feel this season like it has the last 3-4 years, this would be it for me," Walton said. "It got to the point where being in pain every single day and having to take anti-inflammatories to try and play wasn't working anymore. Luckily, for whatever reason, it's feeling better."
Walton began stretching exercises, core work, yoga and pilates over the summer. He hired a personal trainer and worked for hours a day on his glutes and core in an effort to strengthen his back. Now he feels better than he has in years.
He isn't sure which aspect of the training was the key, so he is continuing to do all of it. Despite the time constraints of the regular season, Walton is still dedicated to doing the exercises at home.
"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 said. "So I have to get my butt off the couch and torture myself a little bit for the greater good."