For the first time since having surgery six months ago, Lakers rookie forward Ryan Kelly said he’s participated in basketball drills for the past two days.
Such exercises, he said, have included running and taking shots, including three-pointers. Kelly also ran at his full body weight this week on a treadmill.
“My foot is 100%,” Kelly said. “Where I’m at physically, it’s hard to say. It’s going to take some time.”
Kelly isn’t expected to appear in any of the eight preseason games through Oct. 25. He had surgery in April to repair a screw that was initially inserted in his right foot in March 2012 to treat a broken bone. Because of that, Kelly, who played four seasons at Duke, didn’t have any pre-draft workouts and didn’t play on the Lakers’ summer league team.
“I certainly want that opportunity and I’m fighting for it,” Kelly said. “But for my career, health is more important. One month or one year, whatever. That’s the most important thing. That’s why I’ve been following what the Lakers have asked of me medically. I’m a competitor and I want to be out on the court, obviously. I want to show what I can do. But I have to take care of health first.”
The 6’11″ Kelly could help the Lakers. His floor spacing and mid-range jumper helped him average 12.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots his senior season at Duke while shooting 42% from three-point range. But Kelly’s one-year deal is non-guaranteed, meaning he would have to compete for a roster spot during training camp that holds 19 players.
That also means the former Blue Devil has to resist trading barbs with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, a former All-American at North Carolina.
“I’m a nice guy right now,” Kelly said, laughing.
Kelly then turned serious.
“He’s been great and very supportive. He’s a guy who had injuries and fought through them,” Kelly said, referring to Kupchak, whose 10-year NBA career was cut short after a left knee injury in 1981 limited him. “This is a minor setback, but I’ll be fine.”
To reach that point, Kelly said the Lakers have paced him back onto the court so he can catch up on his conditioning. He also added, “I can still shoot,” though the Lakers have instructed him to temper his shooting so he keeps stress off of his right foot.
All in all, it remains to be seen when Kelly can progress to five-on-five drills, let alone play in any preseason games.
“I’m not going to go out there if I don’t think I’m playing at the level that is going to help me,” Kelly said. “But I’m feeling great and getting good workouts in and getting better every day.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org