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Lonnie Walker IV appears to throw shade at Gregg Popovich while praising Darvin Ham

Lonnie Walker IV appears grateful that he is playing for a coach that lets him to play through his mistakes.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks to shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV, Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham and guard Lonnie Walker IV

Gregg Popovich, Lonnie Walker IV, and Darvin Ham

Promising wing player Lonnie Walker IV seems to be enjoying his new role as a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers. While crediting coach Darvin Ham for allowing him to be himself on the court, Walker appeared to take a shot at his former coach Gregg Popovich.

"Obviously, it's been great," Walker said to reporters. "I think this is one of the very first times where I'm allowed to play through my mistakes and do what I do. A coach like Darv, he's allowing me to just do my game and play free. ... I know what I'm capable of, and it's only continue to get better and better. When you have a coach that has your back and trusts you through thick and thin, it goes a long way."

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Spurs tenure

Before heading west to sign with the Lakers this past offseason, the University of Miami product represented the San Antonio Spurs. There, he played under legendary coach Gregg Popovich, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time.

Many NBA players have been vocal about their desire to play for Pop. But it seems that Walker is thrilled to be away from the system the 73-year-old has built over the years.

In addition, Popovich is known for putting a short leash on his players. There were even instances when he would pull out all of his starters a few minutes into the contest when they were not performing well. As former Spurs mainstay Patty Mills said a few years ago, "When you haven't done the job that is expected of you on the floor, it's five on and five off."

Can Walker flourish in a new system?

Now that Walker is out of the Spurs' system and playing in a different environment, it remains to be seen if he can make the leap in his fifth year. So far, he has been thriving, averaging 31.3 minutes, 14.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per contest - all career highs.

However, Los Angeles has struggled to start the 2022-23 campaign and stands just 1-5. Only the Houston Rockets (1-7) have a worse record in the Western Conference. If Walker can improve further and develop into one of the team's scoring options, perhaps the Lakers can go up in the standings. 

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