- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Lakers' first predraft workout was a veritable bonanza. Despite holding just one pick in the draft at No. 7, L.A. brought in a dozen prospects for evaluation.
It was a mixed group. There were five one-and-done freshmen (Arizona's Aaron Gordon, Indiana's Noah Vonleh, UCLA's Zach LaVine, Syracuse's Tyler Ennis and Kentucky's James Young). There were four seniors (Creighton's Doug McDermott, Weber State's Davion Berry, Nevada's Jerry Evans and Pepperdine's Brendan Lane). There were three in-between (Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart, Michigan State sophomore Gary Harris and Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton). Seven were back-court players, five were were front-court players. They came from conferences as big as the ACC and as small as the WCC.
And they all had a story to tell of how they got here, on the precipice of realizing their NBA dream.
Below is a sampling of how the prospects answered the barrage of questions they faced from the media on Wednesday.
Q: Which current NBA player are you compared to the most?
Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State: "Recently I heard the comparisons to Bradley Beal. Just what he did for the Wizards is just somebody in that type of mold that a lot of people have been saying."
Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton: "It’s a tough comparison, but I think guys like (Kyle) Korver, I’m really good at coming off screens. I’m a great shooter. I watch a lot of Ray Allen. Guys like that, I feel like I can really find a role in this league and be able to maximize that."
Elfrid Payton, PG, Lousiana-Lafayette: "I’ve been compared to (Rajon) Rondo, Tony Parker. Chris Paul how he kind of picks his spots, things like that, throughout the game. Those are a few I look up to."
Q: What are you trying to showcase during predraft workouts?
Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona: "Just the versatility. I can guard a plethora of different positions."
Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse: "I tried to go out there and show I could defend another point guard, another top point guard, especially. I tried to shoot the ball and stick to my game. Making plays for others, seeing the floor and I think I was able to show that a little bit in the 2-on-2 and the 3-on-3 as well."
Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA: "I feel like I have all the tools to be a great defender at the 1 position. I have the speed, the quickness. I have to get stronger, of course. But learning how to read the picks -- going over or under them -- different type of defenses, off-ball defense as well. I’m willing to do anything a team needs to me to do. If they want me to go out there and just play straight defense, try to lock somebody up, I’ll do that. If they need me to be a cheerleader on the bench, I’ll do that. If they need me to run the team, I’ll do that as well. So, I’m going in to win a spot, I’m going in to play. But whatever happens, I’m going in to compete and have fun."
Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State: "I’m a playmaker. Not just on offense, but on defense. I’m a playmaker on both sides. That’s what makes me. I can shape a game on both ends."
James Young, SG, Kentucky: "That I can attack the basket. I didn’t do it a lot this season but I definitely try doing that every workout and just try showing people I can attack the basket."
Harris: "I just say my will to compete on both ends of the court. I’m going to give my all no matter what."
Vonleh: "Trying to show my versatility. Showing I can take guys off the dribble, I can finish above the rim, go to work in the post when I have a smaller guy on me. Just really show my versatility and show how I can rebound the ball."
Payton: "Getting into the paint. I like to live in the paint. I think it helps me and my teammates. If somebody steps up, I can drop it down. If somebody helps over, I can kick it to a shooter. And I think I have the ability to finish at the rim myself. So that’s kind of how my game is predicated."
Q: What's it like working out for an organization with as much history as the Lakers have?
Vonleh: "When I think of the Lakers, I think of a championship program. They didn’t have a good season the last couple years, but I think if they get the right pieces, they can definitely get back to that championship level."
Ennis: "The Lakers haven’t had a lottery pick in a long time so to be able to come in and work out here with this group is something I’ll remember forever."
LaVine: "I’m incredibly happy. I’m definitely keeping these (practice) jerseys right here. I might wear the shorts a lot, show everybody. I’ve always been a Laker fan growing up, ever since I was younger, I’ve lived and died with them. From Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones, to when Kobe (Bryant) came in to where Kobe and them had that losing streak and then didn’t go to the playoffs (in 2005) to where they’re at now, I know everything about the Lakers."
Smart: "It’s crazy. It’s a great feeling. Not many people can say that they’ve been in the Staples Center or (the Toyota Sports Center) to see those (retired) jerseys in person. So, like I told everybody, it’s an honor to be here. I’m excited and I’m blessed."
McDermott: "It’s pretty crazy, man. This is a dream come true. It’s my first workout so, I was a little nervous to start. Especially it being the Lakers as your first one, but it went really well and it’s just a privilege to be here."
Gordon: "I went up and asked somebody, ‘Are those (championship trophies) real?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Everything is real around here.’ So I thought it was pretty interesting. It was pretty cool. Obviously L.A. is a very traditional program and it would be amazing to play here, but like I said, I’m just excited to get picked for any team."
Young: "It would mean a lot. I would love to play out here. Great offensive guys and I would love to be out here in L.A."
Q: What about the chance to play with Kobe Bryant?
Ennis: "I think everybody was (a Bryant fan growing up). You got to respect Kobe, definitely. I think to be able to work out alongside him and as a young player see him and how hard he works, I think that would help anybody, regardless of what position. I think work ethic is contagious and not just to have him, Steve Nash and all the guys, I think you have no reason not to get better."
LaVine: "It’s Kobe Bryant, man. I love his attitude. I love his work ethic. His killer demeanor. I looked up to him and Michael Jordan my whole life. I feel like a lot of people have. It would be a dream come true."
Gordon: "Kobe is psychotic about basketball and I am, too. That would just be absolutely incredible. Just playing with someone great. Just the little intracacies of the game. The details. I would love to see his work ethic. Kobe is the definition of a true pro, as well as Steve Nash is too. Just being around those two guys would help me tremendously."
Q: What do you still need to work on?
McDermott: "I think at the NBA (level), I have to be a lot bigger. I’m not going to grow any more so you definitely have to hit the weight room hard and that will allow me to guard a 4 at times. But you know, I played it in college. I guarded a lot of strong guys. So I think I can adjust once I get a little stronger, but as of now, I’m going to have to guard the 3, possibly some 2s, and I think I can do it."
Smart: "I’m still working on becoming a more consistent shooter. My jump shot is getting better day by day and it’s improved drastically. But I’m still working on it."
Harris: "Everything. Being more consistent with my shot. Working on my ball handling. Working on my decision-making skills. Just improving my all-around game, just trying to get better to just prepare myself for the next level."
LaVine: "I've just been working on my reads off the pick-and-roll, if it’s an (isolation play), go down, looking at the tag defender. If it’s a zone defense, split the screen with the right pass to make. Just getting a feel for it. I pretty much didn’t handle the ball that much this last year, so just getting all my ball handling and my vision back. And running a team is the most important part. Making the right decisions."
BEST OF THE REST
While the group of players were asked many of the same questions, there were some unique questions and answers that were either revealing, entertaining or both.
Ennis on how the workout went: "I think we all came out here and showed what we can do. It’s going to be a tough pick for them."
LaVine on his late-season struggles with the Bruins: "It’s a long season. You have ups and downs. I started off the season really hot, shooting about 60 percent from the 3 and 70 percent from the field and that’s not going to happen as a regular basketball player throughout your whole season. You know that. It’s like a baseball player who is hitting .700. You’re going to come down to earth eventually and you just keep rolling from there."
Harris on the difference between the NCAA and the NBA: "I’ve talked to a lot of guys and they just said the strength and the pace of it. They say it may not look like it’s going fast from the stands or TV, but it actually goes pretty fast and things happen quickly. Just getting adjusted. Everybody has that adjustment level right when they get to college and there’s going to be an adjustment level going into the NBA."
Smart on Lakers fans reaching out on social media: "I’m on Twitter every day. It’s crazy how many fans the Lakers have. They’re excited. They keep saying, “Lakers ... Marcus Smart. Lakers ... We need him here. Laker Land this. Laker Land that. We need Marcus in Laker Land.” So, it’s been an exciting process for me altogether."
McDermott on being a senior among so many freshman prospects: "It’s pretty crazy. I couldn’t imagine being 19, 18 some of these guys, going through this process. I feel like I’m still a young guy, but I’m three years older than them. So it’s pretty crazy. I like to give guys like that advice, too. Obviously these are all good guys and they’re all open to listen to older guys."
Payton on playing with a chip on his shoulder because he comes from a small school: "It’s a little chip. You’re always supposed to have a chip on your shoulder. I always play with a chip on my shoulder, but none of us are no longer in school anymore so we’re all on the same level field."
Young on if John Calipari will leave UK for the Lakers: "I feel like he’ll stay there. He’s doing great there and he’s just doing great for the program."
Gordon on what makes him tick: "What makes me tick? I don’t know man. I did a workout before this. This wasn’t my first workout of the day."
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