Spurs draft Miami guard Lonnie Walker, USC big man Metu
By RAUL DOMINGUEZ
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Lonnie Walker IV has simple goals for his rookie season in the NBA.
Walker wants to work hard, do whatever Gregg Popovich asks of him, win and learn about the world outside of basketball.
The 6-foot-4 shooting guard out of Miami found the perfect landing spot with San Antonio and its veteran coach. The Spurs took Walker with the 18th overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
"I feel like it's just God's message to put me in the right place with the right team," Walker. "It's just time to work, time to prove everyone wrong and I know I'm in the right place at the right time to become something special."
Walker was projected as a possible lottery selection, which is why the Spurs never worked out the 19-year-old from Reading, Pennsylvania.
"We had him ranked significantly higher," San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford said. "So, to see the opportunity to have Lonnie available in the draft, that was exciting."
San Antonio's staff did interview Walker, discovering he was a good fit for a franchise that prides itself on defense and unselfishness. Walker was forced to play point guard when injuries hit Miami. He averaged 11.5 points in his lone season with the Hurricanes while shooting 35 percent on 3-pointers.
"If Coach Popovich needs me to dive on the floor strictly, then I'll strictly dive on the floor. I'm going to do whatever it takes for us to get that win sooner rather than later, hopefully receive that championship," he said.
The Spurs drafted Chimeze Metu, a 6-foot-11 center from USC, with the 49th overall pick in the second round. The native of Nigeria averaged 15.7 points and 7.4 rebounds as a junior for the Trojans.
"We added length and athleticism with both of our picks," Buford said.
With uncertainty surrounding the future of Kawhi Leonard, who reportedly requested a trade, the Spurs opted to draft the athletic Walker and Metu. Walker will have to battle a crowded backcourt that includes Dejounte Murray, Danny Green, Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes and Brandon Paul.
"I'm ready to get after it right now," Walker said. "If they wanted me to work out and practice right now, I'd do it. I'm ready to compete, and at the end of the of the day, I want to be the best. I'm addicted to being the best. I'm obsessed with being the next great. It's time to be a dog, and it's just that simple I've got something to prove."
The Spurs are hoping Walker can team with Murray to form a young, athletic backcourt to help counter the tandems of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in Golden State and Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston.
The Spurs remain optimistic they can persuade Leonard to remain, but the superstar forward reportedly wants to leave the only franchise he has played for. Leonard played in only nine games last season while battling a right leg injury. His absence along with injuries to Tony Parker, Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol, Kyle Anderson led to San Antonio's worst season in two decades.
The Spurs finished seventh in the Western Conference at 47-35, snapping a streak of 18 consecutive seasons with 50 victories. San Antonio battled until the season's final week to extend its streak of consecutive playoff appearances to 21 straight.
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Updated June 22, 2018