With the calendar turning 2015, Lakers forward Ryan Kelly holds out hope this figurative new slate becomes a literal one.
“New year,” Kelly said, “new me.”
After completing his third full practice without reporting any setbacks in his rehabbed right hamstring, Kelly and Lakers coach Byron Scott both said he will become available for Friday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center.
That marks a sliver of good news for Kelly, who has averaged 3.7 points in 8.3 minutes this season in three games amid overlapping injuries to his left and right hamstrings. Kelly has missed the past 22 games because of a previously torn right hamstring.
“Very frustrating. I never want to be seen as somebody who gets hurt a lot,” said Kelly, noting that he missed the beginning of training camp last season in his rookie year as he rehabbed from a surgically repaired right foot. “I’m excited for the future. It’s good timing you know. New year. It’s got some good vibes going for it. I’m positive as I come back the rest of the way will go well.”
The Lakers (10-22) are also confident Kelly’s presence will boost their fortunes after averaging eight points on 42.3 percent shooting his rookie season. His outside shooting, floor spacing and basketball IQ impressed the Lakers enough to sign him this offseason to a two-year deal worth around $3.4 million.
Lakers coach Byron Scott said he will find Kelly an unspecified amount of minutes off the bench, taking equal time away from forwards Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill and Ed Davis.
“I like the way Ryan plays. He gives us something we don’t have. He’s a stretch four and very intelligent basketball player,” Scott said. “He fits in extremely well in the system. It’s just a matter of getting him out there.”
That rarely happened this season.
Kelly missed all of training camp and the first four games of the regular season because of overlapping injuries to his left and right hamstrings. Kelly only played for one game before feeling tightness in his right hamstring and sat out for three more games. Kelly returned for two more contests before an ultrasound determined he tore his right hamstring.
That explains why Kelly felt hesitant performing weave drills after that work contributed toward injuring his hamstring. Incidentally, Kelly reported his teammates calling him a “weave-ophobic.” Scott then advised Kelly to “conquer your fears.”
“I’ve noticed that he’s anxious to get back on the court after missing so much time,” Scott said. “I hope this is the last time he gets that hamstring. I hope hes good form this point on. Anytime you hurt it the way he’s done it, you’re going to have a little bit of a scared feeling when you go into the game. You’re going to be thinking about it a little bit instead of going out there and playing.”
Kelly represents one of several players the Lakers are monitoring for Friday’s game against Memphis.
Scott said Lakers forward Ed Davis practiced on Thursday in everything except for contact drills after breaking his nose in Tuesday’s win in Denver. Scott reported Davis plans to play against the Grizzlies. Kobe Bryant missed Thursday’s practice in favor of light shooting drills and treatment, but will likely play. Meanwhile, Scott sounded unsure if rookie center Tarik Black will receive minutes after completing two full practices. Scott remained hesitant out of hopes to practice Black more and because of uncertainty that will affect the rest of the Lakers’ frontcourt.
As for Kelly, he seemed happy and sounded optimistic, determined to leave a tumultuous year in 2014 behind him in favor of a more promising time in 2015.
“I play the same way no matter what,” Kelly said. “I try to play the right way and try to compete. Those are two things I can control. I try to do it whenever I step on the floor. However I fit into our offensive scheme or defensive scheme, I’ll figure that out along the way. You can count on those two things for me. Coach knows that.”