It didn’t take long for Ryan Kelly to spark a favorable impression.
Moments after making his Lakers’ debut in last week’s preseason loss to Golden State in Beijing, Kelly soon attempted and made a three-point shot. It brought reminders why the Lakers drafted the former Duke standout 48th overall out of this year’s draft. It also prompted a prominent Lakers’ star to provide some positive feedback.
“Kobe [Bryant] said to me, ‘You just fired up a 3 on your first shot. I think I would’ve tried taking it to the basket,'” Kelly recalled. “I said, ‘Hey that’s what they brought me here to do.'”
The only question remains if if Kelly will have enough time to showcase his worth.
He stayed sidelined for all of summer league and the first two weeks of training camp, rehabbing his right foot stemmed from a surgery in April to repair a screw that was inserted into his foot the previous year to treat a broken bone.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni described Kelly as “all over the place” after seeing Kelly average five points on 36.6 percent shooting 12 minutes through two preseason appearances. Meanwhile, the Lakers only have two exhibition games left against the Utah Jazz, including Tuesday at Staples Center and Friday at the Honda Center. The Lakers will then trim their 16-player roster either to 14 or 15 players on Saturday so those players have time to clear waivers by the Monday deadline. Like with many on this year’s roster, Kelly’s one-year, non-guarantee deal leaves him vulnerable that he’ll don purple and gold for only this week.
“I believe I’ve shown myself enough and I’ll continue to show that I’ve earned a spot on this team,” Kelly said. “But to be honest with you, I can’t worry about it at this point. I’m in a situation where I’m a little bit behind. But it doesn’t matter. I’m out on the court now where I have to prove what I can do everyday. Tomorrow is another day.”
In an interesting twist, Lakers general manager and former North Carolina standout Mitch Kupchak could add to the fabled rivalry by holding Kelly against playing for the Blue Devils. Does that unsettle Kelly?
“Only from you guys,” Kelly said, smiling. “Since the season hasn’t started yet, I won’t hear anything quite yet.”
He’ll hear soon, though, on his future.
It’s expected that Shawne Williams and Elias Harris will make the roster because they both have partial guarantees on their one-year contract. That likely leaves Kelly, Xavier Henry and Marcus Landry likely competing for either one or two of the Lakers’ last roster spots.
Henry has become the team’s most pleasant surprise in training camp, averaging 12.3 points a game, shooting 55.6% from three-point range and driving to the basket consistently. Though D’Antoni has lauded his shooting, Marcus Landry has encountered a shooting slump by making only 27.6 percent of his shots from the field and 21.7 percent from three-point range.
The Lakers like Kelly’s ability to stretch the floor and his dependable outside shooting. They just haven’t seen a lot of him.
“I think he played well,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said of Kelly. “He’s a guy who knows how to play the game. Physically he has to develop a little more. But he knows how to play. There’s no doubt about it. He can shoot the ball, spreads the floor and has high basketball IQ. Now let’s see how much Mike will use him during the season. He’s a rookie and has long ways to go. But he has to continue to work on his body so he can put up with the physical aspect of it.”
Kelly believes he’s ready for the challenge.
He has also taken charges and has made hustle plays to prove he provides more than just shooting.
“You don’t want to be a one dimensional player,” Kelly said. “When you’re one dimensional, players sit on your one dimension. I want to be pinpointed as somebody as a big guy who can shoot the ball and a big guy who can make plays and help an offense and also shoot the ball. I’m excited for this offense and glad Im in the position I’m in. I think Coach D’Antoni’s system is perfect for what I do. I can help this team.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org