Larry Nance Jr. waits patiently out of limelight for Lakers to call his number
— Fans chanted his first name the last time Larry Nance Jr. was here, delighted as he hurled his body around the court in a shot-blocking, rebounding frenzy for the Lakers’ summer-league team.
On one play in July, Nance blocked Jahlil Okafor’s shot so hard against the backboard, he thought he broke his hand.
Now Nance is getting scant playing time in the exhibition season as the Lakers’ other first-round pick, the one not named D’Angelo.
Nance was drafted with the 27th selection, 25 after Russell, and is quietly waiting for his time. He did not play in the Lakers’ 107-100 loss Tuesday to Sacramento at the MGM Grand Hotel.
He’s scored three points in two exhibitions, sitting out the other three games as Coach Byron Scott takes a deeper look at other players.
Lakers fans stop Russell in the street seemingly wherever he goes. Same for Julius Randle, drafted seventh overall in 2014. Their images were on electronic billboards and in hotel lobbies here, touted as “The Next Generation” along with Jordan Clarkson.
None of this has happened for Nance.
“I love it,” Nance said. “Those guys deserve the attention. And at the same time, I’m from Wyoming. I’m not necessarily thriving for the attention. I’m not thirsty for it. This is all stuff that I’m accustomed to.”
Many draft experts were surprised when the Lakers took him higher than projected, thinking they found a late bloomer.
Nance looked around the court at a recent practice and pointed out the chiseled Randle and the barrel-chested Metta World Peace. In no way could Nance be called small — listed at 6 feet 9 and 230 pounds — but he figured the Lakers drafted him because they could use someone with his body type and leaping ability.
“I think I’m just something different. I’m someone that’s long, lanky, lean,” he said. “I want to run the floor and be as athletic as I can and really change the pace of the game when I come in. When you put me on the court, don’t worry about me, I’ll find my own stuff on offense.”
Nance’s jump shot is a work in progress. He admits the speed of the game is as advertised — forget about your opponent for a moment and he’ll beat you backdoor for a layup.
The Lakers aren’t throwing him into the fracas too quickly, but they like what they see so far.
“He hasn’t played a whole lot of minutes but the minutes I’ve had him out there, one thing about him, he looks very calm,” Scott said. “It doesn’t look like anything rattles him.”
Nance said he hadn’t fully recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament he sustained as a junior at Wyoming, in March 2014. He has been medically cleared to play for almost a year, but there’s more to come beyond all the jumping and hurtling and crashing, Nance insists.
“The number is two years. Two years until you are 100% and completely ready to go,” he said of ACL surgery. “I’m 90-ish, 85%. There’s still more athleticism, speed and quickness and stuff like that I still have to gain.
“Whenever my number is called, whether it’s this year, next year or the third year, I will have learned as much as I can so that when I get on the court, I can impress.”
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