After difficult summer, Wayne Ellington hopes to stick with Lakers

Guard Wayne Ellington, then with Minnesota, and then-Lakers forward Pau Gasol battle for a loose ball during a game in on March 18, 2011.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

It was a difficult summer for 26-year-old guard Wayne Ellington.

After a frustrating year in Dallas, playing just 8.7 minutes a game, Ellington was dealt to the New York Knicks in June, then to the Sacramento Kings in August.

A few weeks later, the Kings waived Ellington in a cost-cutting move.


“It’s been a rough summer for me, but I worked my [rear] off,” said Ellington at the Lakers’ annual media day on Monday. “That was the one thing I could control.”

The Lakers signed Ellington to a non-guaranteed contract. If he can stick with the team past training camp, $315,656 of his salary will guaranteed on Nov. 15, and $581,692 of his contract locks in if he’s on the roster as of Dec. 1.

Ellington has made a quick impression on teammate Kobe Bryant.

“He looks great. He’s a great all-around player. He can put the ball on the floor. He can make plays for others. He can shoot,” Bryant said after practice on Thursday. “He’s from Philly, what did you expect?”

After helping North Carolina to the 2009 NCAA title, and being named the tournament’s most outstanding player, Ellington was drafted with the 28th overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Through his five seasons in the NBA, he’s struggled to find his niche -- getting traded from the Wolves to the Memphis Grizzlies to the Cleveland Cavaliers.


His best stretch was with Cleveland, playing for Byron Scott (now coaching the Lakers), where he averaged 10.4 points a game.

“I felt like it was a great opportunity for me,” Ellington said about joining the Lakers. “[Scott and I] had a pretty good relationship.”

Sharing Tar Heel history with the Lakers’ general manager didn’t hurt.

“Mitch Kupchak, obviously a Carolina guy, is a great connection,” Ellington said.

In scrimmages, Ellington has played some time alongside Bryant, with the Lakers all-star sliding over to small forward.

He may be able to provide the team an outside shooting threat, while giving his best effort defensively -- similar to what Jodie Meeks provided in his stretch with the team (before leaving in the summer to sign with the Detroit Pistons).

“Jodie was able to be very successful here. We kind of have a similar role,” Ellington said.

Scott has spent most of the early part of training camp stressing conditioning and defense.

Ellington said he is hoping to make a difference with the team on both sides of the ball.

“On the defensive end of the floor, it’s all about effort,” he said. “You have to be willing to put your body on the line and work.

“I’m ready for it.”

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