The player emerged on the Lakers’ practice floor and immediately began working on shooting and conditioning drills. Yet, what seemed like a normal routine still prompted turned heads and raised eyebrows.
The man is Jabari Brown, and he was just moments from signing a 10-day contract with the Lakers after spending most of the 2014-15 season with their Development League affiliate.
“I felt like I showed I can play at a high level,” Brown told Los Angeles News Group after averaging a league-leading 24.4 points per game, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists with the D-Fenders. “There’s a lot of good players in the D-League. I felt like it was a good experience of all the travel and the grind of being a pro.”
Brown’s arrival with the Lakers coincides with a few developments.
With Ronnie Price out for the season with a surgically repaired right elbow, the NBA granted the Lakers a disabled player exception that would allow the team to add a 16th player to their roster. That rule becomes effective when an NBA team has at least four players out for an extended period of time. In the Lakers’ case, that also includes season-ending ailments to Kobe Bryant (right shoulder), Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (right leg). The Lakers also wanted to add a wing player amid an indefinite absence to Nick Young, who has missed the past seven games because of a swollen left knee.
Scott deferred to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on whether the Lakers would add any other players to 10-day contracts.
“I’m all for it if that’s what Mitch wants to do,” Scott said. “We talked about Jabari a few days ago and wanted to bring him. We needed a body or two anywat. But it gives us a chance to see if we’d like to have the guy on our summer league team as well.”
Scott said Brown will join the Lakers (16-46) on the bench for Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons (23-39) at Staples Center. But Scott does not plan to play Brown until Thursday’s game against New York so he can practice on Wednesday. Brown also spent Tuesday morning playing two-on-two with rookie forward Julius Randle against Lakers assistant coach Mark Madsen and player development coach J.J. Outlaw.
“He can really shoot the ball. He’s a little undersized at the 2 position,” Scott said of the 6’4″ Brown. “There’s time out there available since I’ve been going with the three guard rotation and this gives me another perimeter guy I can throw in there.”
Scott did not sound as complimentary about Brown when he played on the Lakers’ training camp roster. Scott argued Brown’s “laid back” personality contributed to him showing inconsistency with his aggressiveness.
“I thought the first two or three weeks of training camp he wasn’t necessarily going through the motions. But he was trying to find his way,” Scott said. “The last few days and last few games, he started to become a little more aggressive and that’s what I wanted to see from day one. That’s what I told him to when I let him go. I told him, ‘I wished you had started out that way being aggressive. When you’re trying to make a team, that’s what you have to do.’ He didn’t start off that way.”
Brown said he took that message seriously.
“I agree with him. It was a first time thing and I didn’t really know what to expect,” Brown said. “I had to get my feet wet and learn on the fly. Having that experience, I’ll try to use that and make the most out of these 10 days.”
Since then, Brown accomplished quite a bit. He made the NBA D-League All-Star team. Brown posted two of the highest single-game scoring performances in the D-League this season, including 50 points on Jan. 10th at Sioux Falls and 48 points on Feb. 28th against Bakersfield. Brown also will reunite with Lakers rookie guard Jordan Clarkson, who played together last year at the University of Missouri.
“He can score and can shoot the lights out and spread the floor,” Clarkson told L.A. News Group about Brown. “He has a quick release on his jump shot. He’s gotten a lot better off the dribble and stuff like that. He just continues to grow.”
Clarkson experienced just that.
After spending most of the 2014-15 season on the bench, Clarkson emerged in the past two months as the Lakers’ starting point guard. Through his 19 games as a starter, Clarkson has averaged 14.4 points on 45.6 percent shooting and 4.1 assists in 30.4 minutes.
“If we’re out there together, I will know what he likes to do and he knows what I like to do,” Brown said. “I feel like it will be cool. I’m really happy for him. I try to watch as many games as I can. It’s crazy to see him not playing much to playing 30 plus minutes a game. That shows when your number is called, you have to be ready. He was definitely ready.”
Brown vows he will do the same.
“It’s a blessing and I’m thankful for Byron and Mitch to give me the opportunity to show what I can do,” Brown said. “I’m trying to make the best of the opportunity.”
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