LOS ANGELES — In a year full of disappointment for the Los Angeles Lakers, there are not have been many positives to take away from the team from the season.
One positive that can be taken away has been the play of rookie Ryan Kelly, who had his best performance in the past two weeks as he had scored 17 points with five rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and two steals in 30 minutes off the bench in Sunday’s 115-99 win over the Phoenix Suns. The 22-year-old, who was drafted with the 48th overall pick in last year’s draft, has played well in the sporadic playing time he has received in his first year in the NBA as he is averaging 7.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 20.9 minutes per game.
Kelly’s season did not necessarily start off on the right foot (pun intended) as he missed the first portion of the Lakers’ preseason as he was still recovering from surgery on his foot. Once he was able to return to action he did not receive much playing time initially as he appeared in only four games in the first 26 games of the season where played at most seven minutes in those contests.
Kelly even had a couple stints in the D-league with the Los Angeles D-Fenders where he averaged 25.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals in 39.6 minutes in five games played. With all that in mind, it was hard to the 22-year-old imagine he is where now with the team.
“It’s hard to imagine (given the fact) that earlier in the season I was struggling to even be out on the court,” Kelly said. “Playing in the D-league and being held out of the beginning of training camp with my injury.”
But with that said it, Kelly saw this season as a chance to showcase his ability on the court.
“I saw an opportunity and I want to keep getting better by taking advantage of it,” Kelly said. “I felt like I could earn a spot in the rotation (I) didn’t know where it would lead, but I think the coaching staff and teammates certainly pushed me to play better.”
Kelly has been through rollercoaster ride of the season as he has started 17 of the 49 games he has played that have effected his level of play on the court. He has been a productive player when given significant playing time as he has shown in several instances this season with career-high 26 points and six rebound in 42 minutes played in the crazy Feb. 5 119-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers where the Lakers were down to just four active players in the final portion of the fourth quarter.
The 22-year-old also displayed his potential in his first career double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds in the team’s 134-126 loss to Denver Nuggets on March 7, and he also tallied eight assists in two games this season against the New York Knicks on March 25 and the Oklahoma City Thunder on March. 9. Kelly also became the third rookie along with Kobe Bryant and Eddie Jones to score 17-plus points in consecutive games.
For head coach Mike D’Antoni, Kelly has played well in fluctuating role this season, but sees plenty of areas he can still improve in as a player.
“He has made strides and he played really well tonight,” D’Antoni said after Sunday’s win. “Again he has to get better physically and there is still a lot of improvement that he has to do. He has to get his shot down to where it’s a knock down shot every time he is feeling good from the outside. But really why not, why can’t he be that.”
With the season dwindling down, Kelly can use whatever playing time he receives as building blocks for the offseason where he will use to work on his game and come back a much stronger and better player with a full NBA season now under his belt.
Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Watch below Kelly’s career-high 26 points against the Cavaliers:
Bob Garcia IV
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