The Lakers aren't going anywhere this season, and Ryan Kelly might not be either.
For Kelly, that would be a good thing. It would mean he's still in the NBA.
A late second-round pick out of Duke in last year's draft, the 6-foot-11 power forward wasn't even assured of making the Lakers' roster. The rookie didn't have a full preseason to prove himself because he was still recovering from surgery to repair a screw that was first inserted in his right foot to stabilize a broken bone in March 2012.
Now he's on solid footing, having started the Lakers' previous four games before Coach Mike D'Antoni decided to go with a bigger lineup Friday night against the Washington Wizards.
The Lakers like Kelly's basketball savvy and his outside shooting. It also doesn't hurt that he makes $490,180 and would probably require only a small raise to keep him next season as a restricted free agent.
"He has demonstrated that he can play in this league," D'Antoni said.
Kelly entered Friday averaging 7.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while making a respectable 37% of his three-pointers. D'Antoni said Kelly needed to work on improving his strength so he could be a bigger factor around the basket and become "a knock-down, dead three-point shooter."
Message received, apparently. Asked about his off-season goals, Kelly said he was targeting the same two areas.
At least he no longer has to audition just to show he belongs.
"I've seen it as an opportunity to let not only the Lakers organization know but the rest of the league know that I deserve a spot in this league," Kelly said, "and I know that I have to earn it every day out here in practice as well as in the games. Everything is not going to be perfect, but I'm improving and that's the biggest thing I think I've gained this year."
Not feeling conflicted
Basketball could be a largely taboo topic in the home of Lakers executive Jeanie Buss now that her fiance is president of the New York Knicks.
Buss acknowledged in an interview with ESPN 710 she had signed a document with the NBA regarding potential conflict of interest because of her engagement to Phil Jackson.
"While I don't think there's ever been a couple like this, there's been brothers — the Paxson brothers — running two different teams," she said. "The Colangelos, father and son, [were] running two different teams. It's not that unusual, but I understand. I'll sign it."
Lakers forward Jordan Hill's missing the team photo apparently wasn't a big deal. "We have Photoshop now, it's no problem," D'Antoni quipped. "Just a little late." Would Hill be fined as a result? "That's not my department, but I'm sure he was," D'Antoni said. "He was having a hair problem day." … Lakers forward Wesley Johnson did not play against the Wizards because of an upper respiratory infection.
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