EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Though Los Angeles Lakers second-round draft pick Ryan Kelly will not be playing in the team’s upcoming summer league in Las Vegas, the 6-11 forward said he’ll be on the sidelines cheering on his teammates and soaking in his first taste of NBA competition.
“I’m going to be in (Las) Vegas, experiencing that whole thing with the team, with the guys,” Kelly said. “That’s part of who I am as a person and as a player. I’m not a bad cheerleader either on the sideline, so I’ll be rooting for them the whole time.”
Kelly, the Lakers’ 48th overall selection in last month’s draft out of Duke, is recovering from a right foot injury that has sidelined him since Duke was ousted from the NCAA tournament on March 31.
While Kelly said he’s feeling great and nearing 100 percent, he still needs another few weeks to get into basketball shape and regain his comfort on the floor.
In the meantime, Kelly is doing light shooting practice and working on his strength in the pool. He’s also watching hours of NBA film, studying coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive and defensive systems, and picking up NBA terminology as he goes.
“It’s an exciting time,” Kelly said of his learning experience. “I’m having a blast and I’m very thankful and happy to be out here.”
Listed at 228 pounds, Kelly understands his adjustment to playing against “bigger, stronger and faster” competition is going to be difficult. Though he doesn’t want to put on too much weight and complicate his foot injury, Kelly said that his main focus is on getting stronger to battle inside if necessary.
Kelly’s strengths are from the perimeter, though, which makes him a natural fit in D’Antoni’s offensive philosophy. Big men who can shoot three-pointers are rare, and Kelly hopes to use his skill set to carve out playing time.
“That’s a commodity in this league right now with the way the game is turning,” Kelly said of big men who can space the floor. “I think in coach D’Antoni’s system that’s certainly something he likes to play with and that he’s played with in his past coaching positions.
“I think there’s an opportunity there and I’d like to take advantage of that.”
As a second-round pick, Kelly knows he’ll have to put in a lot of extra work just to make the Lakers’ roster in the fall. Still, he feels he has a lot to prove and that, ultimately, his intense work ethic will allow him to have a fruitful NBA career.
“I’ll be ready for whatever role I’m going to be in,” Kelly said. “I work my tail off everyday. I put myself in a position to be ready for whatever opportunity I have. That’s something that people of Los Angeles should know, I work my hardest every day.”