David Nwaba wasn't able to see his sister compete in the Olympics last summer because he was focusing on his future. The last 12 months afforded both siblings an opportunity to realize a dream.
"That's always been a dream for her and myself also," Nwaba said of their individual athletic goals. "Growing up every year during my birthday it was always my wish to play in the NBA. It's always been a dream for both of us. I'm glad it all worked out."
Thursday is the 10th day of Nwaba's 10-day contract, and his defense and work ethic have impressed the Lakers' staff.
"He's been great," Coach Luke Walton said of Nwaba, a 6-foot-4 guard. "He's been really good. We've talked about it as a staff. The decision hasn't been made yet. He's done everything he can to deserve another 10 days."
Instead of traveling to Rio de Janeiro to see his sister, Barbara Nwaba, compete in the heptathlon, the Los Angeles native and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo alumnus participated in showcases to get noticed. He had to pay for tryout opportunities. The D-Fenders, the Lakers' Development League affiliate, did notice. They were impressed enough that they invited him to a closed-court tryout.
Nwaba showed fearlessness defensively that resonated with his coaches, aided by his 6-11 wingspan. After the Lakers waived Jose Calderon, they brought in Nwaba on a 10-day contract.
He's made an effort since that day to reply to every one of the text messages that have flooded his phone since he joined the team. And while he was in awe of his surroundings at first, Nwaba took Walton's advice and got past that quickly.
Now he waits.
"I'm just trying to make use of this opportunity right now," Nwaba said. "Give it 100% effort. Every day I am here and hopefully everything works out and I get another 10-day contract."
Soft on defense
Dirk Nowtizki had a strong scoring night against the Lakers on Tuesday night, but he wasn't the only Dallas player to fare well.
In fact, opposing offenses often have their way with the Lakers — and they seem to enter games knowing they will.
Walton addressed that after the game, saying teams seem to view the Lakers as "soft" defensively and act accordingly.
"In college a certain kind of defense is considered good defense," Walton said. "In the NBA, that same defense will get a lot of points scored on you."
Forward Julius Randle sees it as a matter of having the right mind-set.
"It pisses me off, because we're not soft," Randle said. "But we're not the aggressor. When we're the aggressive team we give ourselves chances to win. That soft stuff is out the window. When you're not the aggressor, teams have confidence. NBA players, guys work on their game, they have confidence if you're not aggressors."
Ivica Zubac participated in Wednesday's practice at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Zubac suffered a quad contusion Friday against the Boston Celtics.
Walton said Zubac looked good in practice, for the first time since the injury. He was able to run. Although Zubac was active against the Mavericks on Tuesday, he did not play.
Larry Nance Jr. played 20 minutes and 33 seconds. He had the dubious honor of having Nowitzki score his 30,000th career point against him. Nance sprained his wrist against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.
"Still looks like it hurts him pretty bad," Walton said. "He doesn't really shoot right-handed very much. He keeps practicing."
When: 7:30 PST Thursday.
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena.
On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 710, 1330.
Records: Lakers 19-45; Suns 21-43.
Record vs. Suns: 1-2.
Update: What's on the line? Possibly the Lakers' lottery pick. The Suns pose the most serious threat to knock the Lakers out of the second-worst record in the NBA, thus reducing the chance they win a top-three pick in this year's draft lottery. If the Lakers drop out of the top three, the Philadelphia 76ers get their pick. The good news for the Lakers' lottery hopes is that the Suns have been playing pretty well lately. They've won three of their last four games, including three in a row against the Hornets, Thunder and Celtics.