Ryan Kelly #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket past Gerald Wallace #45 of the Boston Celtics in the second half during the game at TD Garden on January 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
To state the obvious, the Los Angeles Lakers don’t seem like they’re heading for a miraculous finish, but this assembly of broken parts have provided insights into the future of the Lakers. While this season is not exactly award-worthy, the young talents that have emerged deserve credit for fighting against astronomical odds.
First of all, Kendall Marshall deserves recognition. He popped up from the NBA Development League and was starting for the Lakers less than two weeks into his tenure with the franchise. For the first seven games, Marshall was used sparingly because Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry were still relatively healthy.
After injuries strangled the squad and left the Lakers no other options, Marshall stepped forward and took over starting duties to kick off the New Year. In 15 starts, the 22-year-old averaged 11.9 points and 11.5 assists in 38.5 minutes per game. Probably his biggest contribution to the team was his uncanny ability not to get hurt. Other than Marshall, every other Lakers player to play point guard this season ended up injured: Farmar, Steve Blake, Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Henry and Kobe Bryant.
Marshall Mania was tamed by the fact that the Lakers lost 12 of the 15 January games Marshall started, but those results had more to do with lack of defense and lack of talent than Marshall’s lack of passing or shooting ability. In fact, Marshall is shooting 47.6 percent from behind the arc, which would be best in the NBA if he qualified for the minimum. Also, if he qualified, he would be second in the NBA in assists.
Safe to say, Marshall has earned his place on the team and in the league over his one-month sample size.
Ryan Kelly has been another bright spot for the Lakers. The rookie was not expected to play a starting role this season, but injuries left Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni few options. Kelly, for this part, has not shrunken under the bright lights and in the face of mismatched opponents.
On Wednesday, the fearless power forward often found himself playing center for the comically undermanned Lakers. In the Lakers’ win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kelly was the leading scorer for LA. The rookie played a career-high 42 minutes and scored a career-high 26 points against the Cavs, and Wednesday was not a fluke occurrence.
In seven of the last 10 games, Kelly has scored in double figures. With every passing game, Kelly is growing as a player and as a scorer.
Fortunately for the Lakers, the pair of 22-years-olds should be back with the Lakers next season. Neither guy was guaranteed a contract this season, but both guys earned their keep and provided enough cause to get a second look next season.
Marshall and Kelly may not be the marquee names normally associated with the Lakers, but these are two kids that are working hard for their chances at the NBA dream and playing for the Lakers.