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Lakers' Luke Walton returns to action -- as a radio commentator

Injured forward joins broadcast team in place of Mychal Thompson, whose mother has died. Walton works Friday's game against Minnesota and will also help call Saturday's game at Utah.

December 12, 2009|By Broderick Turner
  • Lakers forward Luke Walton, who has an injured back, left the bench Friday night to fill in for broadcaster Mychal Thompson.
Lakers forward Luke Walton, who has an injured back, left the bench Friday… (Andrew Gombert / EPA )

It was not where Luke Walton wanted to be, or what he wanted to be doing.

But since he is out because of a back injury and unable to play, the Lakers called on the veteran forward for help.

Walton sat in Friday night for Lakers radio commentator Mychal Thompson, whose mother Marriett, 87, died in his native Bahamas.

Thompson said he hoped to be back for Tuesday night's game in Chicago against the Bulls.

So Walton did Friday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves and will be behind the microphone again tonight when the Lakers play the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.

"This is a good game to start with," Walton said before the game. "I know every play the teams are running out there."

That's because Timberwolves Coach Kurt Rambis was an assistant coach with the Lakers and runs the same triangle offense.

When the Lakers scored their first points on a follow shot by Andrew Bynum, Walton was quick to chime in.

"There we go, Tower 1, getting it started, hitting the glass," said Walton, referring to the Lakers' nickname for Bynum.

Pau Gasol, the 7-foot power forward, is Tower 2.

"In my opinion, Ron Artest is the best defender in the NBA," Walton said. "He can guard anyone from the one to the four."

As if on cue, Artest stole the basketball and went in for a layup.

"Thanks for making me look good, Ron-Ron," Walton said, smiling.

After the Lakers opened a 33-24 first-quarter lead, the broadcast went to a commercial break.

"He's a natural, right?" said Spero Dedes, the radio play-by-play announcer for the Lakers. "We might not like Mychal to come back."

Walton laughed.

"As much as I like it up here, I can't wait to head back down to the court," he responded.

When Dedes noted that the Lakers' bench was being outplayed by the Minnesota reserves, Walton, normally part of the Lakers' second unit, said with a chuckle:

"I don't know what to say about that. I'm a bench guy. I don't want to say anything negative about my guys."

Seconds after Sasha Vujacic made his third jumper, Walton offered this: "It doesn't take Sasha much time to get his shots up, does it?"

Lakers television commentator Stu Lantz also missed Friday's game, the first of six he will miss because his wife, Linda, was having surgery to repair a broken foot.

Rod Hundley, a former Lakers player and broadcaster who retired after 35 years as the voice of the Jazz, will replace Lantz.

Hundley, known as "Hot Rod," spent two years as a commentator alongside legendary Chick Hearn before joining the Jazz.

In an odd twist, Hundley will work tonight's game in Utah.

"I'm kind of nervous about it," he said of working Friday night's game. "I haven't done a lot of homework on this year's team. Plus, we've got to go to Utah tomorrow. I'm going to go in with a coat over my face."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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