ONTARIO — At a time when everyone had a chance to audition for playing time and a possible roster spot, Lakers second-round draft pick Ryan Kelly stayed on the bench
But that moment may not last much longer. After spending the past six months rehabbing from right foot surgery, the 6’11” forward from Duke sounded optimistic he will practice without any limitations at some point this week.
“I certainly believe so,” Kelly said. “I would hope at the rate I’m going. Barring no setbacks, which I don’t believe will happen, I’ll be able to get in practice fully.”
Xavier Henry’s career-high points in the Lakers’ 104-95 win Saturday over the Golden State Warriors at Citizens Business Bank Arena may have hurt Kelly’s chances to grab a final roster spot. Kelly represents the 16 players under contract, but his deal isn’t guaranteed. The Lakers have a 19-player training camp roster, but can hold a maximum of 15 players once the regular season starts.
But as Kelly hopes to play in a few preseason games since missing the Lakers’ Summer League altogether, he’s refused to make any contingency plans if he doesn’t make the team.
“Right now this is my only option,” Kelly said. “That’s all I’m focusing on.”
Kelly has said that his foot has fully healed, but he’s followed orders to gradually pace himself back into drills. The latest involved playing one-on-one against Lakers player development coach Mark Madsen.
“He got me today a little bit,” Kelly. “In the post, he’s tough to deal with.”
Kelly then plans to progress toward two-on-two and three-on-three drills before advancing to full five-on-five drills with contact by some point this week. Then, Kelly hopes, he can play in some preseason games and prove why the Lakers drafted him with the 48th overall pick.
“I haven’t played basketball in a long time, and I want to put myself in position to play well,” he said. There’s a reason the Lakers drafted me and I know the reasons and I want to go out there and do them.”
The Lakers envisioned Kelly as a perfect fit because he embodies the ideal so-called “stretch four” player for Mike D’Antoni’s system. Kelly’s 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. Only problem: Kelly hasn’t healed quickly enough to show that on the court.
But Kelly stressed he hasn’t experienced any setbacks with his foot.
“I’ve noticed that people are saying I’m not 100 percent because I’m not playing,” Kelly said. “My foot’s 100 percent, it’s just that I haven’t played basketball in a long time, so I’ve got to play basketball.”
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