Every player in the gym wants to earn his place in Lakers history.
Just look at the walls, with the storied numbers and names — Chamberlain, Johnson, Bryant. Look at the window that overlooks the pair of courts, where six polished Larry O’Brien trophies shine. And look at the players, all young, hoping to help the Lakers return to the glory days.
Friday marked the Lakers’ first day of practice at the UCLA Health Training Center, and one of those players was easy to miss. Svi Mykhailiuk, Los Angeles’ second-round pick in last month’s NBA draft, is 6-foot-8, lanky and wears a scruffy beard. Compared to first-round selection Moe Wagner, a 7-foot forward, he’s easy to overlook. But the Lakers aren’t overlooking his potential.
“They were surprised he was still there,” Miles Simon, the Lakers’ summer league coach, said after talking to Lakers head coach Luke Walton. “I think Svi is gonna be a longtime NBA player.”
Mykhailiuk’s NBA journey started when Los Angeles picked him 47th, and it’ll continue when the Lakers open summer league Monday at 8 p.m. in Sacramento against the Kings. It’s their first game of the California Classic, a three-day competition also featuring the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors summer league teams.
A fourth-year senior out of Kansas, Mykhailiuk is known for his shooting. He set a school record for three-pointers with 115 last season.
Mykhailiuk also can put the ball on the floor and has good size. Simon acknowledges that Mykhailiuk, like Wagner, will need to improve his defense and learn new terminology, but one practice in, he was impressed.
“Svi was awesome,” Simon said. “He knocked down some threes. He looked really good.”
Simon is tasked with developing Mykhailiuk in summer league, but he has some help. Second-year Lakers guard Josh Hart, for example, said he considers it his duty to bring rookies along.
“It’s a lot different than college,” the former 30th overall pick out of Villanova said.
Simon said his plan for Hart is to play him in one game in Sacramento and then once more in the Las Vegas summer league, although Hart wasn’t so sure. He said he wanted to talk to Lakers brass before he makes his playing schedule official.
“He has an NBA-style game,” Hart said. “He can shoot the ball and also put it on the ground.”
The Lakers’ summer league team won the Vegas title last year, and Mykhailiuk said with hard work and guidance from older players, he’s confident in the team’s ability to win it again. That’s quite a ways from adding another trophy. But for now, it’s all that matters.