Lakers’ Ryan Kelly plans to play Sunday vs. Utah

Los Angeles Lakers Ryan Kelly (4) defends against Utah Jazz's Derrick Favors (15) in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game Monday, April 14, 2014, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Los Angeles Lakers Ryan Kelly (4) defends against Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors (15) in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game Monday, April 14, 2014, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Finally, the Lakers have gone through a day where it appears they will add another healthy player to their roster.

After missing the first four exhibition games because of a strained left hamstring, Lakers forward Ryan Kelly plans to return Sunday against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. That move will become official if Kelly goes through a five-on-five scrimmage on Saturday without any setbacks. This will mark the second consecutive season Kelly has entered training camp with an injury. Last year, Kelly spent his rookie season rehabbing his surgically repaired right foot before playing at the tail end of training camp.

“It’s very frustrating,” Kelly said. “But I try to look at the positive. There are worse times to be out in some ways. If you’re making a playoff run or pull a hamstring, that is the worst feeling you can possibly have I want to be out there with the guys and continue to learn the offense, but there are worse times.”

The Lakers could surely use Kelly, who averaged eight points per game his rookie season on 47.6 percent shooting from the field and 33.8 percent from three-point range. The Lakers (1-30) have quickly morphed into an ineffective three-point shooting team, their league-worst 20.7 percent mark from the field including missing the past 19 attempts from beyond the arc through the past 11 quarters.

It hasn’t helped that the Lakers have also nursed injuries to Steve Nash (back spasms), Jeremy Lin (sprained left ankle), Jordan Clarkson (strained left calf muscle), Nick Young (surgically repaired right thumb) and Xavier Henry (back spasms).

So what difference could Kelly make?

“Just being able to stretch the floor is big,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “It opens up the spacing for us. It would be a welcome sight to see him out there. He’s been going through the offense and he has a pretty good idea of what we’re doing. I’m just anxious to see him play.”

Scott said he will feature Kelly at power forward, meaning he will compete for minutes with Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle. Even though the Lakers welcome Kelly’s presence, he is entering some uncharted territory.

He thrived last season in part because of former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, whose offense catered toward so-called stretch forwards who can space the floor and hit outside jumpers. Scott’s Princeton-based offense centers on a deliberate post-play, constant motion, and attacking the basket. Scott has also said he hopes his team takes between 12 to 15 three-point shots per game.

Yet, Kelly expects he will still shoot plenty of three-pointers of of pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs while seeing open mid-range jumpers on the elbows.

But first things first. After spending the past two weeks slowly progressing through conditioning drills on his hamstring, Kelly just wants to play in a game.

“I’ve been itching. The itch has been there for a while,” Kelly said. “I’m excited. I haven’t gotten a chance to play yet. With these guys and this group, it’s been exciting for me. We’re missing some guys who shoot the ball from that distance.”


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