Ryan Kelly is far from big time. The Lakers rookie forward received a painful reminder of that when the team bus didn’t wait for him following L.A.’s 107-104 victory Friday over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Even after posting a career-high 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting in 34 minutes, Kelly needed to hail a cab to go back to the team hotel. The Lakers are noticing his progress, though. So much that Coach Mike D’Antoni said Kelly will start over Jordan Hill at power forward when the Lakers (15-25) play the Toronto Raptors (20-18) today at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors rank third in a weak Eastern Conference and have won 14 out of their last 20 games. “He’ll have to get used to playing every night and more minutes,” said D’Antoni, who traditionally prefers so-called stretch forwards over bulkier big men. “The biggest thing is to keep him on the floor and out of foul trouble. He seems to have a tendency to do that. But he’s going to give us toughness, smarts, move the ball and hopefully he makes open shots.” What about the Lakers’ rebounding without Hill? The Lakers rank 16th overall (43.1) and 30th in opposing team’s rebounds (48.1). “We don’t rebound anyway,” D’Antoni joked. “It’s not going to be any more challenging than it is. It can’t get any worse.” D’Antoni then argued Kelly’s floor spacing and work ethic makes it easier for the team to grab rebounds, anyway. In the Lakers’ loss Wednesday in Phoenix, Kelly posted then-career highs in points (nine), rebounds (seven), blocks (three) and steals (two). “Obviously this is what I wanted. This is what I worked toward,” Kelly said. “It’s very early in the season. I have a long way to go.” Kelly, a lanky 6-11, 220-pound forward selected 48th overall from Duke, has reported improvement in both added muscle and reducing his body fat this offseason from 13 to eight percent. Despite missing all of summer league and most of training camp with a surgically repaired right foot, Kelly eventually ascended up the Lakers’ depth chart because of his shooting and defensive awareness.
Ryan Kelly’s improvement is drawing attention from Lakers
L.A. Daily News | Jan 19