Monday, October 21, 2013
D'Antoni unsettled on roster size
By Dave McMenamin
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers will be tipping off their season next week, but just how many players will be on their team is yet to be determined.
The league-minimum 13? Fourteen? The league-maximum 15? Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni doesn't know.
"I do not have a sense of it," D'Antoni said after practice Monday. "No."
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said prior to training camp that it is a possibility the team may carry a full boat.
"In years past, it would probably be a lot tougher to justify keeping 14 or 15," Kupchak said. "I think ownership would be more open to it this year than they would in years past."
The Lakers opened up training camp with 19 players, but waived Dan Gadzuric and Eric Boateng to bring their roster to 17 shortly before their trip to China. While in China, they waived Darius Johnson-Odom with three days remaining on their trip, shaving the roster down to 16. It also allowed him to be free to sign with the Sichuan Blue Whales of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Of those 16 players, 11 of them have fully guaranteed deals for this season, making them sure bets to be on the team. Two players -- Shawne Williams and Elias Harris -- have partially guaranteed deals worth approximately $100,000 apiece. The remaining three players -- Xavier Henry, Marcus Landry and Ryan Kelly -- are all on nonguaranteed deals. However, the Lakers did invest a second-round draft pick on Kelly, selecting him 48th in June.
If Williams' and Harris' roster spots are considered safe based on the money owed to them, there are as many as two remaining positions for the trio of Henry, Landry and Kelly to battle for.
Henry has had the strongest showing of the three during preseason by far. The former No. 12 pick out of Kansas is the Lakers' third-leading scorer through six exhibition games, averaging 12.3 points on 42 percent shooting and is the outright leader in 3-point percentage (55.6 percent) and free throw attempts (35, or 11 more than the next-closest Laker, Pau Gasol).
Landry, whom D'Antoni had in training camp with the New York Knicks before, is averaging 4.0 points on 27.6 percent shooting overall and 21.7 percent from 3, though D'Antoni called him the best shooter on the team when the Lakers were in Las Vegas.
Despite falling behind in the preseason because of foot injuries, Ryan Kelly is hopeful that he will make the Lakers' regular-season roster.
Kelly, who at 6-foot-11 towers over the 6-foot-7 Landry and 6-foot-6 Henry, missed the first four preseason games while rehabbing from multiple foot procedures. He finally played when the team was in China and was "all over the map," according to D'Antoni, averaging 5.0 points and 2.0 rebounds while shooting 33.3 percent from 3 and 36.4 percent overall.
Kelly had a few highlights in his preseason debut against Golden State, including sacrificing his body to draw an offensive foul ("A full-court charge," Kelly said proudly. "That doesn't happen too often. I guess it's just a Duke thing.") and went 2-for-3 from deep, including a 3 on the first shot attempt of his NBA career. "Kobe [Bryant] said to me, 'Wow, you just fired up a 3 on your first shot, huh? I think I would have tried to take it to the basket.' I said, 'Hey, that's what they brought me here to do'").
Gasol made it sound like Kelly would be on the final squad when he told reporters over the weekend, "We'll have to see how much Mike [D'Antoni] is going to use [Kelly] during the season."
D'Antoni was far less committal Monday when asked what the are odds of Kelly making the team.
"I don't know," D'Antoni said. "Are you going to Vegas or something? I don't know. I have no idea. We got to figure out how many we're keeping and what we're doing. That's Mitch's question."
Kelly sounded confident, however.
"Obviously, I got to play better, but I think, all things considered, I'm in a good place," Kelly said. "I believe I've shown myself enough, and I'll continue to show myself, that I've earned a spot on this team. But, to be honest with you, I can't worry about it at this point. I'm in a situation where I was a little bit behind, but that doesn't matter. I'm out on the court now, and I have to prove what I can do every day."
D'Antoni said that the final cuts would occur this weekend with the deadline coming 48 hours before the Lakers' first game Oct. 29, against the Los Angeles Clippers.