Cavaliers hire former Lakers coach Luke Walton as assistant

FILE - Then-Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton calls out from the bench in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. The Cleveland Cavaliers have hired Luke Walton as an assistant under J.B. Bickerstaff. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday hired former Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton as an assistant under J.B. Bickerstaff.

The 42-year-old Walton finished his 11-year NBA playing career with the Cavs in 2012 before getting into coaching. He spent nine years playing for the Lakers, winning NBA titles in 2009 and 2010.

Walton coached the Lakers from 2017-19 before going to Sacramento. He spent two-plus seasons with the Kings, but was fired following a 6-11 start last season. He also served as an assistant with Golden State, winning a title in 2015.

“It’s rare when you can strengthen your staff with someone of similar experiences and a passion for the game of basketball,” Bickerstaff said. “Luke is someone who identifies with our five core values as a coach, but also traits he was recognized for as a player, both in college and the NBA.

“I’m excited for our players to have another valuable resource to work with on the court, as we continue doing things the right way for sustainable success.”

Walton’s championship experience should benefit the improved Cavs, who were one of the league’s biggest surprises last season. Cleveland went 44-38 and made the play-in game a year after going just 22-50.

With All-Star guard Darius Garland, forward Evan Mobley and center Jarrett Allen, the Cavs have a solid young nucleus to build around. They’ve also made a long-term commitment to Bickerstaff, who signed an extension in December through the 2026-27 season.

“We are very excited to add someone of Luke’s caliber and championship DNA to our coaching staff,” said Koby Altman, the Cavs’ president of basketball operations. “His on-court experiences as a head coach, assistant coach and player in this league fit seamlessly into J.B.’s existing coaching staff.

“Luke is someone who truly embraces player development, a team-first mentality, and a history of creating winning basketball habits.”