Tarik Black does something few other NBA players do. He thanks people around him. Continually.
His coach. Reporters. Probably the cashier at the gas station for giving correct change.
It’s refreshing in a league where the average salary is nearly $5.5 million and athletes often expect the royal treatment.
Black can’t stop using the word “opportunity” whenever he talks, the undrafted center out of Kansas happy to be on the Lakers after getting waived by the Houston Rockets last month.
He had 14 points and nine rebounds in only 17 minutes of the Lakers’ 101-84 victory against Orlando on Friday. Then he sought out Coach Byron Scott on the court as the players walked back to the locker room.
He thanked him. Of course.
Scott was actually the grateful one.
“I went to him because I thought Ed [Davis] and Jordan [Hill] were kind of walking up and down the floor, looked tired, so I took them out,” he said. “What I thought [Black] could bring was energy and that’s what he did.”
He even blocked a shot, something he wasn’t known for in Houston, where he blocked only two in 393 minutes.
He also made six of seven free throws Friday after converting only 50% before then.
Black started 12 games in Houston while Dwight Howard dealt with a knee injury. He was waived when the Rockets signed Josh Smith, who was unexpectedly released by Detroit.
Black, who actually said “opportunity” 11 times in the first three minutes of an interview Saturday, felt an immediate connection with Scott when the Lakers claimed him.
“As soon as I walked through the door, coach shook my hand and told me that as long as I work hard, I’ll be all right out here. Usually coaches don’t even really talk to us like that unless you’re their franchise player or their top draft pick,” Black said. “Undrafted guys? They don’t give you the time of day. Coaches here have shown me love from day one.”
When Saturday’s interview sessions concluded, Black had one more thing to do.
He stuck out his hand and thanked a reporter for talking to him.
Jeremy Lin is looking better
Jeremy Lin hasn’t had a great season with the Lakers, losing his starting job 20 games into it and struggling with consistency since then.
Five games into January, he couldn’t be happier with the results of the new year.
“Hopefully, we didn’t jinx it by talking about it today,” Lin said.
Lin is averaging 14.8 points and 3.6 assists, and shooting an impressive 51% this month.
Scott had not decided whether Kobe Bryant would play Sunday against Portland after sitting out Friday’s game for more rest. Bryant, 36, has skipped five games this season. ... Wesley Johnson practiced Saturday and could play Sunday, Scott said. Johnson has sat out three games because of a strained hip flexor.