Ryan Kelly’s improvement is drawing attention from Lakers

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first_imgTORONTO — 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.” “The only way to get out of anything is to be confident in who you are,” Kelly said. “I’m confident in who I am as a person and I’m confident in who I am as a basketball player. I guess you can say my family taught me to be that way, to be confident and not cocky.”Kelly illustrated that moments later by pushing a cart full of luggage through a hallway and elevator to exit out of Air Canada Centre. Clearly, he’s still earning his stripes.Young returnsAfter weathering frustration over an altercation and a one-game suspension, Nick Young’s smile has returned.“They got me out on bail,” said Young, who joked that he breezed through security in Canada because he wrote his nickname “Swaggy P” on the Customs document. Young appeared in high spirits beyond retaking his spot as a key reserve, where he’s averaged 16.6 points on 42.3 percent shooting, league-leading numbers among players who have come off the bench for at least 20 games. The Lakers also partly credited their improved intensity in their win Friday in Boston to Young after he criticized his teammates for not helping him out during an on-court scuffle Wednesday in Phoenix. “All I wanted is for all of us is to be a team and be with each other,” Young said. “For them to fight and say the things they said after the game was big for me.”Injury updateLakers guard Steve Blake participated in the team’s shootaround on Saturday solely using his left hand during full-court drills without any defense. Blake, who has nursed a hyperextended right elbow for the past five weeks, also continued taking shots close to the basket with his right hand. 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.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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