TORONTO — Ryan Kelly stopped walking down the hallway at Staples Center during a recent chat, a look of concern spreading across his face.
He took several quick, long steps and knocked on some wood paneling. He had just been asked about his perennially sore foot. He felt the need to make sure it remained a nonfactor.
"I've had no problems at all," he said.
The Lakers are happy for his health. In fact, the gangly rookie forward is starting for them Sunday against the Toronto Raptors, taking the place of Jordan Hill after scoring 20 points Friday against Boston.
"Obviously this is what I wanted," Kelly said Saturday. "This is what I worked towards. It's still very early in the season and I have a long way to go. We have a long way to go."
The Lakers haven't had a first-round pick since 2007, placing an increased emphasis on their second-round picks. They've discovered some value in Kelly, who was selected 48th in the 2013 draft.
He made four of six three-pointers in the Lakers' 107-104 victory against Boston and confidently made two free throws with 9.4 seconds left for a three-point lead.
Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni is desperate for a power forward with an outside touch. It's part of the foundation of his offense. So Kelly got the call over Hill.
"I just think we're a better team when we can spread the floor," D'Antoni said Saturday. "It's better for Wes [Johnson]; he has better games when we can spread the floor. It's better for Pau [Gasol] when we can spread the floor. It's better for Kendall [Marshall]."
But Hill, who goes back to the bench, is the team's best offensive rebounder.
"We don't rebound anyway. We can't get any worse," D'Antoni said sarcastically. "We've got to have guys a little bit more active. That's what Ryan does. Ryan will clear out space, he'll block out when he needs to. He's a smart basketball player, so I think we'll rebound better."
The Lakers (15-25) are tied for 16th in the NBA with 43.1 rebounds a game.
Kelly's promotion symbolized a personal victory over past physical issues.
He sustained a broken right foot as a junior at Duke and was limited to only games — no practices — for his senior season. He underwent surgery on the same foot last April to repair a screw that had been inserted after the initial break.
His recovery from the second procedure cost him valuable off-season training time after being drafted by the Lakers. It jeopardized his chances of making the team with a nonguaranteed contract in training camp.
"I didn't let it creep in my mind," he said. "I just said I've got to do my best on a daily basis not to look ahead. I knew what I could bring to the team."
Kelly made the team when the Lakers chose him over Marcus Landry, and now he's earning minutes, a career-high 30 against Boston. He was known as a shooter in college and must pick up his game in another area.
"Defensively, I need to be in the right positions at all the right times," he said. "It's something that I think I did that in my college career. It's a little different in the NBA, but I've got to keep growing there. That's the side of the floor that's most important to me."
Young to return
Nick Young ignited a days-long debate about team cohesiveness with his "one on five" accusation. Now he'll return to the court Sunday, $10,000 poorer after serving a one-game suspension for punching Phoenix guard Goran Dragic.
"Back from vacation, man," Young said Saturday as he jumped into line for a practice drill.
There didn't seem to be any fallout from Young's claim that his teammates didn't come to his defense Wednesday after a hard foul by Phoenix center Alex Len.
The Lakers talked about it as a team Friday, and Marshall apologized to Young for not helping him. Marshall stood near the top of the three-point line, hands on hips, while Young was enmeshed in the altercation under the basket.
Twitter: @Mike_BresnahanCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times